Strategically irrelevant and expensive, Guantánamo has become a political icon, so suggestions that U.S. officials...

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GUANTÁNAMO

AN AMERICAN HISTORY

A relentlessly critical history of America’s oldest naval base and the only one in a hostile country.

Hansen (Social Studies/Harvard Univ.; The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920, 2003) reminds us that Cuban rebels had been holding their own for three years before Americans arrived in 1898, ostensibly to save them from Spanish tyranny. After an easy victory, American forces excluded rebels from surrender ceremonies and peace talks and demanded that their new constitution include the right to intervene in Cuban affairs, plus a lease on Guantánamo. As a result, ambitious leaders routinely declared that opponents were endangering American lives, and Marines from Guantánamo obligingly came to their aid. Under Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. government stopped intervening but continued to support leaders who promised order and, after 1945, anticommunism. Even before Fidel Castro’s arrival in 1959, Guantánamo was no longer an important base; since the ’60s, it has served mostly as a holding area for refugees and prisoners. Hansen devotes an angry chapter to American treatment of Haitian arrivals (almost all returned) compared to Cubans (almost all admitted to the United States), and a final, equally angry chapter covers events after 9/11. The Bush administration sent suspected terrorists to Guantánamo because it seemed beyond the reach of journalists and, according to advisors, American legal protections. Officials proclaimed that such fanatics were immune to traditional interrogation, but enhanced techniques would reveal information vital to save American lives. The only result has been a persistent public-relations disaster.

Strategically irrelevant and expensive, Guantánamo has become a political icon, so suggestions that U.S. officials leave—common during past administrations—are no longer heard, but Hansen’s distressing history may revive the idea.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8090-5341-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2011

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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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