FEAR FALLS AWAY

AND OTHER ESSAYS FROM HARD AND ROCKY PLACES

Delicious, closely observed place vignettes of southeastern Arizona, from naturalist Bowers (A Full Life in a Small Place and Other Essays from a Desert Garden, 1995). The Santa Catalinas, the Pinalenos, the Huachucas, the Santa Ritas, Baboquivari—these southwestern mountains are for Bowers ``the stuff of wary beauty and abiding love . . . a love that lies less in easy responses than in intimate acquaintance, doggedly pursued.'' After 20 years, she is still going about making the place her home, finding, synecdochically, a vastness in the details: in the petroglyphs of the Hohokam, artist-farmers, contemporaries of Chaucer; in an old snag, perforated like a Chinese checkerboard, an acorn in every hole, tucked there by a woodpecker (``The tree seemed to have a hundred brown eyeballs''); in a melancholy walk on Mt. Graham, home of an endangered squirrel threatened by a new observatory. She is unhappy with the human degradation of her dreamscape, angry at the roads cutting through the wild, jarringly like ``rough footsteps in the dark, a banging door, the sound of gunfire,'' but she does not beat the reader senseless with such things. Rather, like a good pilgrim, she dawdles, lets the landscape move through her, tunes her fine eye to the exigent art of seeing—``the cliffs stand on the rim like the fur on an angry cat's back.'' Her delineations of the land are sharp as crystal, and fragile and melancholy, too, as if the land might melt into air, ephemeral as a desert flower. The desert Southwest is blessed with superb place portraitists: Edward Abbey, Charles Bowden, Jack Dykinga, and many more. Add Bowers to that embarrassment of riches.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 1997

ISBN: 0-8165-1717-7

Page Count: 175

Publisher: Univ. of Arizona

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1997

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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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