An engaging jeremiad proposing that “the resistance is now in the hands of a new generation.”




A widely ranging history of intellectual and moral resistance within American politics.

Biggers (The Trials of a Scold: The Incredible True Story of Writer Anne Royall, 2017, etc.) connects this tradition to the authoritarian tendencies of the Trump presidency, arguing, “the language of Trump’s America First narrative…reflected [Thomas] Paine’s warning of ‘brutish’ leadership.” This brief survey is structured in five essayistic chapters, each focused on a different era and aspect of resistance. He considers figures both widely known, such as Paine, or his own mentor the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, and more obscure—e.g., the anti–World War I protester and activist Marie Equi. Biggers calls out beloved figures who fell on the wrong side of resistance movements, like George Washington, who obsessively pursued runaway house slaves. Slavery provides a fuller fulcrum for the author’s discussion; he examines both Frederick Douglass and those who argued against nonviolent resistance to this historical wrong. In “Enemy of the People,” Biggers contrasts Trump’s brazen attacks on the press with the conflict between free speech and John Adams’ Alien and Sedition Acts, which Thomas Jefferson noted “had been designed specifically to suppress oppositional media.” In “To Undo Mistakes,” the author looks at early American immigration policy debates, as well as the more recent internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, tying them to the resistance sparked by Trump’s pursuit of a religion-based travel ban. Unlike previous immigration bans, “a coordinated effort by religious congregations to resist Trump’s deportation forces emerged across the country.” In the final essay, “Cities of Resistance,” Biggers links early interest in environmental preservation (embodied by Thoreau’s writings, among others) with attempts to counter the Trump administration's dismantling of key federal oversight. The author writes clearly and with a firm grasp of historical comparison, intimately focused on compelling figures; still, his work could use fuller focus on the actual resistance movements Trump has inspired.

An engaging jeremiad proposing that “the resistance is now in the hands of a new generation.”

Pub Date: July 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-047-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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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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