Like a growing number of critics, Brinkley argues that raising a nation from poverty requires an effective government,...

CAMBODIA'S CURSE

THE MODERN HISTORY OF A TROUBLED LAND

An excellent though dispiriting account of a country whose historic poverty, exacerbated by the Vietnam War, remains remarkably unchanged.

Former New York Times Pulitzer-winning journalist Brinkley (Journalism/Stanford Univ.; Defining Vision: The Battle for the Future of Television, 1997, etc.) explains that Cambodia was a backwater, powerless to prevent North Vietnamese forces from establishing bases inside its borders after 1965. America’s devastating bombing nurtured the Khmer Rouge insurgency, which took power and launched the well-known genocidal horrors after the United States withdrew in 1975. Vietnam’s 1979 invasion ended the killing, but since Vietnam was a Soviet ally, America denounced the new government. Matters changed after 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed and Vietnamese troops withdrew, leaving an impoverished nation led by Vietnam’s Cambodian protégé, Hun Sen. America encouraged the UN in an audacious, multibillion-dollar nation-building campaign. The author cynically notes that nothing impresses Western nations than a free election. Cambodia dutifully held one in 1993, and Hun Sen won. Proclaiming success, the UN withdrew, but aid continues to pour in despite a stunning lack of progress; nearly half of Cambodia’s children are malnourished. Few deny that corruption is responsible, and Brinkley’s book is less history than an angry journalistic description of Cambodia’s kleptocratic leadership, its universally bribable officials and the donors who facilitate them. Readers will squirm as Brinkley describes a yearly pledge meeting where international donors denounce endemic corruption, and Hun Sen (still in charge) promises reform, whereupon donors pledge another year’s aid.

Like a growing number of critics, Brinkley argues that raising a nation from poverty requires an effective government, democratically elected or not. Otherwise, aid is money down the toilet.

Pub Date: April 12, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58648-787-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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