Repetitive in detail but cumulatively very moving.




An oral history of one horrific night when busloads of unarmed students were attacked by local Mexican police.

Gibler (To Die in Mexico: Dispatches from Inside the Drug War, 2011, etc.) only presents one side, but he offers compelling testimony that there is no other side—that police attacked without provocation and the government did its best to cover up what it had perhaps authorized in the first place. The results seem beyond dispute: “that police killed 6, wounded more than 40, and disappeared 43 people.” The fate of the disappeared remains open to question: were they sent to be incinerated by a drug gang in collusion with police, or, as their parents hope, are they still alive and held captive by the government? The Teachers College in Ayotzinapa was a progressive institution that was at odds with government repression. As one sophomore explains, “the way of life here, the context, the government harassment and persecution that is always present, I mean it never dissipates, and one has to start, little by little, getting used to the idea that this school isn’t any old school.” The underclassmen who dominate the early part of the account had no idea what they were getting into when they were enlisted to participate in an “action” commemorating an earlier police massacre of students in Mexico. They sensed something was wrong from the outset, when the bus drivers moved slowly and then stopped before armed police, who initially fired shots in the air but soon turned their fire on the students, who responded with rocks. When soldiers belatedly arrived, they threatened to turn the students over to the police who had been shooting them. Hospitals were indifferent: “They should have killed you,” said one hospital director to those seeking help. This is the account of those who witnessed and survived the attacks as well as that of the parents who still search for the 43.

Repetitive in detail but cumulatively very moving.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-87286-748-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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