A better choice for Southern history buffs than for true-crime junkies.

THE THIBODAUX MASSACRE

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND THE 1887 SUGAR CANE LABOR STRIKE

A little-known massacre is brought to light.

In 1887, the tumultuous elements of the recent past—slavery, sharecropping, a new movement in unionizing workers, etc.—came together in Thibodaux, Louisiana, in a devastating manner, as the tension between plantation owners and poorly paid workers led to a strike on sugar plantations. Threats during the strike turned into a mass murder of black workers so hushed by the media and overlooked by society that to this day, the actual number of deaths is unknown. Journalist DeSantis (The New Untouchables: How America Sanctions Police Violence, 1994, etc.) spent more than a decade trying to peel back the layers of history to shed light on what locals referred to as the Thibodaux Massacre. The author is the first to acknowledge that in 10 years of research, he was able to learn surprisingly little about the killings, but when new information came to light in the form of direct accounts contained in a pension file, it formed the basis of the story he presents here. It is perhaps the seasoned reporter’s drive for hard facts and the bigger picture that work against DeSantis, because in the final product, they act to obscure the crime at the center of the book. Though the massacre itself lasted only hours, that is the story the author strives to impart, and details about those hours take up precious little space in the narrative. Without the pieces that lend color to the crime itself, DeSantis relies heavily on historical details instead. Some of these quite obviously lend context to the massacre, helping readers understand the tensions that existed and how the situation came to a head. Other information, though, seems tangential and distracting. Though well-written, informative, and interesting, the book lacks a clear focus on the crime at its heart.

A better choice for Southern history buffs than for true-crime junkies.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4671-3689-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: The History Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2016

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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