An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

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MY WAR CRIMINAL

PERSONAL ENCOUNTERS WITH AN ARCHITECT OF GENOCIDE

This scrupulously researched work by a skilled interviewer of “imprisoned perpetrators” focuses on the making of the genocidal Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadžić.

Between 2014 and 2016, Stern (Global Studies/Boston Univ.; Denial: A Memoir of Terror, 2010, etc.) held a dozen conversations with the war criminal, now imprisoned for life in the Scheveningen Prison in The Hague. Though interviews with such high-profile war criminals had not been sanctioned by the International Criminal Tribunal—the first international war crimes court established since the Nuremberg and Tokyo trials at the end of World War II—the ICT ultimately agreed, acknowledging Stern’s meticulous methods and hoping her research might yield valuable information about Karadžić’s motives. Karadžić came to power as the former Yugoslavia’s ethnically divided federations began to declare their independence in the early 1990s, and the once-dominant Serbs of Bosnia, in the minority to the majority Bosnian Muslims, feared (or were incited to fear) that they were losing their status and privileges. The culmination of fear and hate erupted in the genocide at Srebrenica in July 1995, when the Bosnian Serb army captured the town and executed thousands of surrendered men and boys. Appearing as a cultured, intelligent “gentleman,” Karadžić created a whole other entity as an “energy healer” and poet while on the lam for 12 years, and he believed that he was a hero for his beleaguered people. Stern’s account of their interviews is a riveting battle of the wills, as the author chronicles her battle against Karadžić’s manipulation and attempts to see some remorse. Yet he was unrepentant in protecting “his” people from exaggerated threats and demographic changes, and he used fearmongering tactics that Stern recognizes as being currently practiced by the U.S. government. Ultimately, the author provides a subtle, powerful illustration of terror that resonates today, especially regarding the resurgent white supremacist movement. The deep, extensive footnotes and detailed timeline attest to Stern’s meticulous research.

An utterly compelling chronicle from a master scholar and clear writer.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-088955-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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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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BECOMING

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...

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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