Appleby presents the explosion of possibilities at the beginning of the 19th century in sparkling, jargon-free prose and...

INHERITING THE REVOLUTION

THE FIRST GENERATION OF AMERICANS

A treasure-trove of information about the early Republic, recreating an era that mixed cultural and emotional chaos with unprecedented opportunities at all levels of society.

Appleby (history/UCLA) paints the early 19th century as a time of tumultuous expansion of individualism, economic growth, and political engagement. The “first generation,” born in the decades immediately following the revolution, applied their parents’ idealistic challenges to authority to the reinvention of politics, commerce, and intimate relationships. Although Appleby’s purpose is to examine social contexts rather than anomalous individuals, the materials she uses vividly evoke the lived experience of real people. Drawn from hundreds of diaries, letters, memoirs, and records of the obscure as well as the famous, her panorama comprises men and women, African-Americans and Europeans, and rich, middle-class, and poor Americans. Appleby dramatizes daily life in a brand-new nation in which dueling was an accepted form of political discourse, counterfeit currency was nearly as valuable as genuine, and young men and women sallied forth to adventures and careers their forebears could not have imagined. In the South, slavery promoted the concentration of wealth and a rigid caste system; in the more progressive North, new avenues to prosperity opened up with technological innovations and the aspirations that motivated them. Revolutionary ideals of cultural egalitarianism helped to spread the desire for literacy and “refinement” throughout the population, creating new opportunities for work in the business of culture. But entrepreneurial enterprise valued flexibility and originality at the expense of familial loyalty and continuity with the past, fraying the relationships that had sustained earlier generations. Throughout the nation, the post-revolution generation reinvented the notions of religion, family, and destiny, forging an ideology that celebrated individual autonomy and elevated self-improvement stories to the status of myth.

Appleby presents the explosion of possibilities at the beginning of the 19th century in sparkling, jargon-free prose and vibrant detail, producing an indispensable guide to a fascinating, turbulent time. (Illustrations.)

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00236-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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