A mostly compelling, long-overdue saga of the famous ship.

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SHIP OF GHOSTS

THE STORY OF THE USS HOUSTON, FDR’S LEGENDARY LOST CRUISER, AND THE EPIC SAGA OF HER SURVIVORS

A forgotten chapter of heroism, brutality and survival from the opening days of World War II.

The USS Houston, famed for ferrying FDR on several voyages, was on the wrong side of the Pacific when World War II broke out. The fate of the ship and her crew has never been fully revealed until now. Battered and on the run after several skirmishes in the opening weeks of the war, the Houston was looking for shelter. Just after 11:30 at night, on Feb. 28, 1942, the Houston and the Australian cruiser Perth sailed into the Sunda Strait off the coast of Java. Their arrival coincided with the landing of a massive Japanese army on the island. Against overwhelming odds, the two ships battled for more than an hour before they were sunk. Those who survived were captured and taken to Singapore, but that was only the beginning of their nightmare. The prisoners were put to work in what would become an infamous stretch of jungle, the Burma-Thailand Railway, basis for the epic The Bridge on the River Kwai. Though the Perth and Houston survivors shared the same experience, the author focuses on the Houston crew. As in Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors (2004), personal accounts from survivors make vivid the brutal experience. Scattered by the current, some sailors were immediately captured, while others evaded the enemy for days or weeks. Back home, families waited for news that never came. The multiple points-of-view presented here occasionally become confusing, but when the survivors arrive at the jungle prison, the author ties the separate threads into a gripping narrative. Harrowing and frank, this story of a gritty band of men—starved, isolated and working under excruciating conditions—reflects the triumph of will over adversity.

A mostly compelling, long-overdue saga of the famous ship.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2006

ISBN: 0-553-80390-5

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2006

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

NIGHT

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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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