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Based in part on interviews with camp survivors, Russell documents in chilling detail a shocking story of national betrayal.

Texas Monthly contributing editor Russell (Lady Bird: A Biography of Mrs. Johnson, 1999, etc.) recounts a dark episode in America’s past in this engrossing history of the forced detention of thousands of civilians in internment camps during World War II.

Soon after the nation entered the war, Franklin Roosevelt empowered FBI director J. Edgar Hoover to find and arrest Japanese, Germans and Italians—immigrants, their wives and their American-born children—in the United States and Latin America so that they could be “a ready source of exchange” for Americans imprisoned in enemy countries. When Eleanor Roosevelt opposed the project as smacking “too much of Gestapo methods,” Hoover started a file on her, too. Russell focuses on Crystal City, a camp designed especially for families, located near the Mexican border in the Texas desert. By the time it closed in 1948, it had housed more than 6,000 people. Conditions in the camp, monitored by the International Red Cross, were humane, both to comply with Geneva Convention provisions and to ensure that rumors of mistreatment did not exact reprisals against American prisoners abroad. Each family had separate living quarters with a kitchen and bathroom; a mess hall served three nutritious meals per day. At their own request, prisoners designed and built a pool “the size of a football field,” relief against the oppressive heat; when high school seniors wanted a prom, they had one, as well as graduation ceremonies. The camp’s administrator, Joseph O’Rourke, emerges as kind and caring, but he could not protect the families from the secret prisoner exchanges that sent thousands back to Germany and Japan, where families were shocked to find nations in rubble; nor from Truman’s edict requiring repatriation of “any enemy alien considered dangerous,” decisions summarily made on shaky evidence.

Based in part on interviews with camp survivors, Russell documents in chilling detail a shocking story of national betrayal.

Pub Date: Jan. 20, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4516-9366-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Nov. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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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

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