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

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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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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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