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 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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