Potent, emotional essays that speak to the relatable experience of rising above a harrowing childhood.

ISLAND OF BONES

ESSAYS

Castro (English and Ethnic Studies/Univ. of Nebraska; Hell or High Water, 2012, etc.) ponders her troubled adolescence and who she is today.

Adopted and raised by a Cuban American family of Jehovah's Witnesses, the author reflects on her search for her true identity. As a child, she was required to proselytize for the church and was subjected to starvation and sexual abuse by her stepfather, conditions she knew were wrong. However, she was "raised to be seen and not heard,” and so Castro learned to put her head down and endure. "Forbidden to go to college," she ran away at the age of 14 to live with her adoptive father. Despite becoming a single mother at 20, she continued her education, earned a doctorate, and later, tenure at Wabash College. Regardless of her achievements, Castro continued to search for understanding and identity through her teaching, her writing, her reading of Latino literature, and the raising of her son. As an adoptee, she had always believed her biological mother was a Latina and assumed the role of a Latina herself, only to have this myth crushed at 26 when she met her mother and found out her true ethnic background. "In one sudden yank of the rug,” she writes, “I felt my family and identity severed from me. I didn't know where to stand." Throughout her life, Castro has had to redefine her identity, both to herself and to others. These powerful transformations form the backbone of this slim volume of visceral pieces.

Potent, emotional essays that speak to the relatable experience of rising above a harrowing childhood.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8032-7142-5

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Bison/Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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