A sympathetic biography that seeks to clear the noted birth-control pioneer's name of the charges of elitism and racism, which have darkened her reputation in recent years.

Feminist historian Baker (History/Goucher Coll.; Sisters: Lives of America's Suffragists, 2005, etc.) tells both Margaret Sanger's (1879–1966) personal and public stories. Born to a large, poor Irish family, Sanger transformed herself from middle-class housewife to internationally renowned sex educator. Although trained as a nurse, she left school before earning a degree and consequently worked primarily as a midwife in New York's Lower East Side. It was the death of a young woman from a self-induced abortion that impelled her to take up the cause of women's rights to contraception. Baker chronicles her early years as an activist, mingling with bohemian intellectuals and developing her skills of writing, organizing and fundraising. For her forthright language on sexual matters, she was charged in 1914 with violating the Comstock anti-obscenity laws. The charges were later dropped, but Sanger was imprisoned briefly in 1917 for opening a clinic and disseminating forbidden information. Into her account of Sanger's years of activism, the author weaves the story of her several debilitating illnesses, her two marriages and numerous sexual alliances, her encounters with the famous (e.g., Havelock Ellis and Mahatma Gandhi) and her gradual displacement as leader of the birth-control movement. Baker ably illuminates the time period, making clear the attitudes that Sanger confronted and the political and religious forces that were arrayed against her. She acknowledges Sanger's support of eugenics but asserts that Sanger was being pragmatic, requiring allies and finding many in the then-popular eugenics movement. Baker also asserts that to label her as racist is an unjust tactic of pro-life groups and that, in her day, Sanger, who opposed segregation, was more racially tolerant than most Americans. A wealth of information about the birth-control movement and the dedicated woman who was long at the center of it.      


Pub Date: Nov. 8, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8090-9498-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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