Swift, photographic prose defines the dimensions of hell—and of humanity. (8-page photo insert)

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102 MINUTES

THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIGHT TO SURVIVE INSIDE THE TWIN TOWERS

Two New York Times reporters take us inside the World Trade Center on 9/11 to give us a more capacious view of heroism.

Dwyer (Subway Lives, 1991, etc.), who won a Pulitzer as part of the group that covered the 1993 WTC bombing, teamed with special-projects editor Flynn to interview scores of survivors and their families; the pair also studied e- and voice-mails from those inside. From these sources they’ve pieced together a powerful account of the disaster that hesitates neither to confer laurels nor point fingers. Their technique is not novel: we move around the buildings, getting to know some folks employed there and learning names and histories of rescue workers. We know the buildings will fall; those inside do not. (Most people fleeing the north tower didn’t discover until they got outside that the south had fallen.) The authors lard their tale with surprising and alarming detail. The Marriott swimming pool caught fire. A man carried a disabled woman 54 floors down to the street. A fireman was killed by a falling human being. Molten aluminum from a melting airliner poured from an 80th-floor window. A dead cop’s gun went off in the searing heat. Their account of the rescue efforts is equally disturbing. The various agencies were unable to communicate with one another; firemen carrying 57 pounds of equipment struggled slowly up stairs choked by smoke, heat, and debris; 911 dispatchers gave mixed messages to those inside; about a hundred firemen died in the north tower because they had stopped to rest on floor 19 and didn’t hear the evacuation order. The authors conclude that most of the rescuing was done by civilians helping one another, not by policemen and firemen. Flynn and Dwyer do not seek to diminish what the safety officers did; instead, they celebrate the extraordinary capacities of ordinary folk.

Swift, photographic prose defines the dimensions of hell—and of humanity. (8-page photo insert)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7682-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Times/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2004

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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