TURNING THE WORLD UPSIDE DOWN

INSIDE THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Based largely on eyewitness accounts, this reconstruction of ``the best known and least understood major event in our history'' depicts the American Revolution not as a rational movement based on Locke's ideas—but as a conflict buffeted by the passions of unruly men. The title refers not only to the song played by the British at their Yorktown surrender but also to the upheaval caused by the eight-year conflict. Although his descriptions of the Boston Massacre and Boston Tea Party push his narrative off to a rousing, iconoclastic start, Tebbel (coauthor, The Magazine in America, 1991, etc.) doesn't expand the pre-Revolutionary era beyond the Massachusetts theater and can't quite maintain the breathless pace of these set pieces. In his eagerness to save the American Revolution from mummification, he uses present tense and colloquial narration, sometimes to arch effect (``And where is our boy Lafayette?''). He also exaggerates our contemporary glorification of the war (every schoolkid still knows that these were ``the times that try men's souls''). But Tebbel does detail to often stunning effect the problems that plagued the patriots: starving and badly paid soldiers; a citizenry as apathetic as it was opportunistic; a dithering and impotent Continental Congress; recruiting scandals; profiteering contractors; and vicious attacks and reprisals by rebels and loyalists. Although the author admires George Washington for his dogged perseverance and Daniel Morgan for his buckskin charisma, he takes pleasure in the portrait dipped in acid— including ones of Samuel Adams, the Boston firebrand never squeamish about bending truth in the service of propaganda; John Paul Jones, the tyrannical sea-dog-turned-legend by refusing to give up the battle; and General Charles Lee, Washington's one-time second-in-command, a misanthrope who loved dogs more than people- -and who, while in prison, plotted to betray the rebels. Not quite the bottom-rail view of history to which it aspires, nor as revisionist as it hopes—but often vividly impressionistic. (Four maps)

Pub Date: July 4, 1993

ISBN: 0-517-58955-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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