One finishes this book deeply impressed—with the people of Anchorage, with Genie Chance, and with the author.




A natural catastrophe inspires ordinary people to extraordinary heroism.

Like the aftershocks of the earthquake that rocked Anchorage in 1964, this immersion in a barely remembered disaster shows how thematic implications continue to reverberate. In this impressively rendered narrative, longtime New York Times Magazine writer-at-large Mooallem (Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America, 2013) seamlessly blends together a character study, an examination of the character of a community, a chronicle of what happened, and an inquiry into the human soul. The title refers not only to life’s chanciness, but also to the protagonist, a part-time radio reporter named Genie Chance, who became the voice of calm reassurance to Anchorage and then earned fleeting fame as the voice of Alaska. The author ably describes the earthquake, the most powerful in North American history: “The earth yawned open and swallowed cars….The sounds of the earthquake were part of the dreamlike incoherence. Most people mistook the low growl of the churning earth for a nuclear bomb.” Mostly, however, he focuses on the people and the aftermath, specifically how the disaster brought out the best in people, who followed their best instincts when there was no clear line of authority and behaved with “a staggering amount of collaboration and compassion.” Initially, skeptical readers might question the account: How did an author born long after the incident learn so much that he is able to recount so precisely. Why does he frame the events in reference to Our Town (playing at the community theater at the time), dividing the narrative into acts, bringing different characters onstage and then off? It isn’t until Mooallem introduces himself as a character and recounts the process of reporting that one fully appreciates the journalistic accomplishment, the implications of which extend from feminist activism to the field of “disaster studies.” Encouragingly, the major lesson is that “our goodness is ordinary.”

One finishes this book deeply impressed—with the people of Anchorage, with Genie Chance, and with the author.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-50991-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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...


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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