DEAR GOD, HAVE YOU EVER GONE HUNGRY?

A Schindler Jew’s mediocre Holocaust memoir, buoyed by its generous humor and often fetching illustrations. As Holocaust memoirs go, Bau’s isn—t remarkably full of depravity, heroism, or miraculous escapes. Instead, for much of the memoir’s first half, the teenaged protagonist is incarcerated with his family in the ghetto of Krakow. Much of the black humor that pervades this section involves Joseph, as unpaid graphic artist, and his ever-scheming, comic-optimist brother Marcel, who tries to parlay Joseph’s skill into life-giving work permits and even financial rewards from their Nazi overlords. But relentless hunger, as the title suggests, is really the chief theme; the funniest section involves the misadventures that prevent three different sources of food from providing a beggar’s banquet. Still, Bau writes in earnest (and how could he not?): the ghetto is liquidated on March 13, 1943, and some 2,000 Jews are butchered in the process. Accordingly, the authorial eye observes a woman’s hand, protruding from a shallow mass grave, “pointing an accusing finger . . . as if to warn the killers that their hour of reckoning would surely come.” A latrine is then built above the grave. The inhumanity and inanity of the situation give Bau just the right opportunity for his understated wit, which proves to be the key to his survival, offered in resistance to a range of horrific events. He tells of his courtship and marriage to Rebecca Tannenbaum in the camp. Climactically, in the memoir’s final chapter, the now elderly Israeli couple braces as they—re called to testify at the Vienna trial of the Plaszow concentration camp’s killer of Blau’s father. Many of Bau’s 100 or so childish line drawings offer emotive illustration. He includes a few maudlin and inartistic poems that add little to this memoir.

Pub Date: July 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-55970-431-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1998

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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...

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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