A worthy additional contribution to the burgeoning literature, timed for the bicentennial of Mr. Jefferson’s vast...

A WILDERNESS SO IMMENSE

THE LOUISIANA PURCHASE AND THE DESTINY OF AMERICA

Lively account of America’s first giant step toward empire.

The American settlement of the trans-Appalachian West had already begun when Thomas Jefferson went off to Paris in 1786, writes Kukla (Director/Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation), as land-hungry immigrants from the British Isles poured over the frontier into lands claimed by Spain and, following the rise of Napoleon, by France. Some of those newcomers weren’t above a little treason to secure their fortunes under the Spanish crown; throughout the US, secessionist movements and rebellions against federal authority were flourishing, and Jefferson had every reason to worry about the emergence of rival confederations set up by Americans as much as he did the intransigent British and other European powers on the frontier. To contain all these ambitions required an ever-expanding empire, Jefferson recognized—but, he warned, “we should take care to not . . . press too soon on the Spaniards. Those countries [of the West] cannot be in better hands. My fear is that they are too feeble to hold them till our population can be sufficiently advance to gain it from them piece by piece.” While Jefferson and company’s intensive negotiations with the Spanish and French governments over nearly two decades form the heart of this thoroughly detailed account, Kukla lifts his eyes above the conference table to show how accidents of history hastened the acquisition of the Louisiana territory along—notably a slave rebellion in Haiti that kept much of the overseas French army pinned down and thus thwarted Napoleon’s “dream of a revived empire” in North America, but also the strange indifference of Congress, which might have stopped Jefferson in his tracks had its members worried too much about the constitutionality of the purchase.

A worthy additional contribution to the burgeoning literature, timed for the bicentennial of Mr. Jefferson’s vast acquisition.

Pub Date: April 10, 2003

ISBN: 0-375-40812-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2003

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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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