An impassioned, carefully executed work of research.

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GREAT SOUL

MAHATMA GANDHI AND HIS STRUGGLE WITH INDIA

A thorough sifting of the often contradictory life pursuit of Gandhi (1869–1948), from South African barrister to the Mahatma.

Pulitzer Prize–winning former New York Times correspondent and editor Lelyveld (Omaha Blues: A Memory Loop, 2005, etc.) tackles the paradoxes inherent in Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha, or “firmness in truth”—his version of passive resistance in the face of social injustice, which he honed from his first journalistic writings in South Africa to his epic final demonstrations for Hindu-Muslim harmony shortly before his assassination. The author painstakingly examines the primary sources in Gandhi’s life to provide a rich, multilayered portrait of the evolution of his thought and action—no easy feat, since the Mahatma’s philosophy changed constantly, especially in the early days in South Africa, which served for two decades as his “laboratory” in which to test his ideas of civil disobedience, chastity, communal living, vegetarianism and winning rights for minorities, especially the untouchables. The last months of his stay in South Africa proved crucial, as he put himself on the line for the “coolies” he had heretofore defended in print by organizing a collective strike of indentured servants in Natal. This unleashed “a collective spasm of resentment and hope” that he took back to India in his larger crusade against the strictures of the caste system. Although he claimed always to believe in the equality of all men, Gandhi did not make the leap in the early South African struggle between the plight of the blacks (the “kaffir”) and the Indian untouchables, and only later took up the cause of the minority Muslims (for which he was killed). “To say that Gandhi wasn’t absolutely consistent isn’t to convict him of hypocrisy,” writes Lelyveld. “It’s to acknowledge that he was a political leader preoccupied with the task of building a nation, or sometimes just holding it together.” The author delves deeply into the episodes that tested, and tightened, his convictions along the way: challenging the concept of “pollution” by infiltrating the Vaikom temple in a mass demonstration in 1924; his determination to “fast unto death” to ensure untouchable representation in Congress; eight years practicing what he preached at the Wardha ashram.

An impassioned, carefully executed work of research.

Pub Date: March 29, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-26958-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2011

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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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