Seeking ``continuity, connectedness, permanence,'' Morgan, a former editor at Playboy, tells the rich and profoundly human history of his 70-year-old Little Rock, Ark., house, and of the people and families who lived there. Built in 1923 by Charlie and Jessie Armour, 501 Holly Street (in Bill and Hillary's old neighborhood) is ``a bungalow in the Craftsman style . . . low-slung and solid.'' Morgan became intrigued with the two-story, 3,200-square-foot structure and with those who once called it ``home.'' Preliminary digging led him to the elderly daughter of the Armours; she shared family albums and often quite personal recollections, as did many of the former residents. Births, weddings, divorces, menopausal crises, marital spats, parties, rebellions, bankruptcy—life and all its joys and trials are recorded here. The Armour family would stay in the house through the Depression and WW II; the next tenants, the Murphrees, lived at 501 Holly ``for nineteen long years, from the big band era to the Beatles.'' Morgan takes it as a sign of social and cultural change that the first two families lived in the house for a total of 43 years, while the next six owners have come and gone over the past 29. As the other families move in and out, the author peels away layers of paint, wallpaper, linoleum, and carpeting, recording renovations and repairs as well as changes in decor. But this chronicle, ostensibly about the house, becomes finally a history of the concept of ``home'' in America over the past three-quarters of a century. Morgan, following two emotional divorces and unhappy uprootings from earlier homes, finds himself rejuvenated and grounded here. ``This old house,'' he writes, ``with its flawed past and its walls gone gray, will always be identified in my memory as the place where I knocked and they let me in.'' A rich, profound, fully realized study of how a house becomes a home. (b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51914-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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

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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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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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