From the “dreadful deceit” of race comes a masterful book about its history.

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A powerful exploration of an enduring myth that has haunted America over the centuries, from one of our best chroniclers of America’s struggle with racial inequality.

Jones (History and Ideas/Univ. of Texas; Saving Savannah: The City and the Civil War, 2008, etc.) claims that race is a construct that has little meaning in biology even if it has had tremendous and deleterious force in historical reality. Instead of a sweeping overview, the author focuses on six biographical sketches that illustrate the pernicious force of the myth of race that has nonetheless manifested in the realities of racism from the Colonial era onward. Thus, a Dutch master’s killing of one of his slaves reveals the increasing tensions in a globalizing world. A fugitive slave in South Carolina embraces the teaching of religion in a Revolutionary era in which men spoke of ideals of freedom while protecting the institution of slavery. A free black businesswoman in post-Revolutionary Rhode Island navigates the treacherous waters of freedom in a world still deeply committed to perpetuating her subservience. A light-skinned black man in the Union Army becomes a loyal Republican in the postwar era and experiences the frustrations and disappointments of white racial solidarity. A Tuskegee Institute graduate founds his own vocational institution for blacks in Jim Crow Mississippi and manages to survive and sometimes thrive in arguably the most oppressive state in an oppressive region. And a black writer and union advocate in Detroit utilizes his relationships in organized labor to bridge racial divides. A graceful writer and natural storyteller, Jones draws meaning from these six tableaux, maintaining the thread of her argument without hammering away at it. She brings the story up to the present by revealing the ways in which the election of Barack Obama has hardly served to mask the ways in which the racial myth has done real harm.

From the “dreadful deceit” of race comes a masterful book about its history.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-465-03670-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2013

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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