Green opens our eyes with his assiduous research and steady storytelling.

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THE DEVIL IS HERE IN THESE HILLS

WEST VIRGINIA'S COAL MINERS AND THEIR BATTLE FOR FREEDOM

Green (History/Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston; Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America, 2006, etc.) mines the historically dark seams of the sanguinary Mountain State coal wars that raged in the early decades of the 20th century.

The author begins with the discovery of coal in the region in 1750 and then proceeds to the quick “development” of the area by mine owners, who did all they could—legally and otherwise—to keep wages low, working conditions precarious and workers in a virtual enslavement. (The volume’s subtitle reveals the author’s point of view.) Numerous notable names appear throughout, beginning with James M. Cain (before his novels), who wrote about the region in the 1920s, and including familiar names (Mother Jones, the Hatfields, John L. Lewis) and those whose roles many readers new to the subject may find remarkable—Louis Brandeis, Billy Sunday (he was on the owners’ payroll), Edmund Wilson and Felix Frankfurter (pre–Supreme Court) among them. The very names of some of the encampments and confrontations are resonant—e.g., Paint Creek, Matewan and Blair Mountain. Green proceeds through the decades, describing the actions (violent and otherwise) in calm detail, telling us about the principals on both sides and providing many useful maps and photographs. We see the rise and fall and rise of union activity in the region—activity that was often bathed in blood and terror—and the fecklessness and cowardice of politicians at all levels, from local officials to President Herbert Hoover. We witness the extreme deprivations of the miners and their families, their astonishing willingness—even eagerness—to suffer so that future generations would not. It is obvious throughout that these issues of capital vs. labor have remained with us and, in some ways, worsened.

Green opens our eyes with his assiduous research and steady storytelling.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-0802123312

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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