A useful reminder of a past era that resonates with contemporary politics.



The story of internecine warfare in the Democratic Party.

In 1980, Jimmy Carter was in trouble. The sitting Democratic president was unpopular. Though the economy had been flagging for most of the past decade, as sitting president, he bore much of the blame even if he did not deserve it. Iranian revolutionaries had taken Americans hostage in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, and Carter seemed helpless. On matters both domestic and foreign, Carter was perceived as weak and out of touch. Even as he anticipated a tough election fight against whomever the Republicans nominated (Ronald Reagan, it would turn out), he faced a challenge from the left within his party. Ted Kennedy, the youngest son of the legendary political family, challenged Carter for the Democratic nomination that year. As Yahoo senior political correspondent Ward notes, “it was one of only a handful of times…that an incumbent president running for reelection had been challenged from within his own party.” Though Carter would emerge from that struggle, bruised and battered, he would succumb to Reagan in the general election. This is the story the author tells in this intriguing political history. In a fine dual political biography that becomes a riveting tale of a party seemingly in chaos, the author occasionally overstates his case—the Democrats were hardly “broken” as a party in the 1980s and beyond—and the dual-biography structure sometimes makes it seem as if Carter and Kennedy are somehow inevitably on a political collision course. Still, Ward provides deep insight into American politics in the past five decades. He writes fluidly and demonstrates a firm grasp of how politics work. It is also interesting that he writes in a time when there are increasing whispers that a sitting president might face an internal challenge to his renomination.

A useful reminder of a past era that resonates with contemporary politics.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4555-9138-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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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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