Sharply etched biographical portraits focus a compelling history.

A history of 20th-century sisters who bore witness to Southern culture, politics, and values.

In 1973, Hall (Revolt Against Chivalry, 1993, etc.), director of the Southern Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina, interviewed two sisters, “improbable voices from the deepest South,” who each had grappled with her heritage and was shaped by a “maelstrom of historical events and processes.” Grace Lumpkin (1891-1980) and her younger sister, Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin (1897-1988), are the central characters in a sweeping, richly detailed intellectual and political history of America from the 1920s to the 1980s, an absorbing narrative based on impressive scholarship: the women’s published and private writings; their racist father’s “bitter, murderous memoir,” in which he discloses participating in the Ku Klux Klan; and abundant archival sources and oral history interviews. William Lumpkin boasted that he taught his children “to love the Lost Cause”—i.e., the South’s past glory and the Confederacy’s “brilliant and heroic” fight. The Lumpkin sisters, however, came to see their Southern past “as both a burden and an opportunity” as they sought to create “new patterns in the tangled threads of memory and history.” Both sisters observed racial violence and “grinding class inequity” that led them to redefine the meaning of whiteness and their complicity in America’s social structure. Both were educated at Brenau, a women’s college that drew its white students from relatively wealthy families. Grace took a degree in domestic science; Katharine became a student leader and, after graduating, worked as a traveling secretary of the YWCA, whose mission was to save souls and nurture “independent womanhood.” As Grace gravitated to fiction writing, Katharine continued her education in sociology and politics, where ideas from Darwin to John Dewey shook her preconceptions. Hall traces the sisters’ professional careers, their campaigns against the oppression of blacks and women, their love affairs (Katharine lived with a woman for more than three decades) and involvement in communism, and, eventually, the divergent paths that resulted in their becoming “the most intimate of strangers.”

Sharply etched biographical portraits focus a compelling history.

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-04799-8

Page Count: 672

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview