TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT HISTORY

A ``late-twentieth century understanding of historical truth,'' outlined by three women historians, Appleby (History/UCLA), Hunt (History/UPenn) and Jacob (History/New School for Social Research). While there has been widespread discussion in the United States about the current state of academe, the supposed decline in its standards, and the prevalence of political correctness, there has not been much reflection, outside the profession, of what the authors call the ``ferocity of the current argument about how United States history should be taught.'' It is, the authors note, a controversy about values, objective knowledge, cultural diversity, and the nature of truth. The virtue of this book is that it makes a history of the study of history, particularly as it applies to the United States, more accessible to the general reader by turning a relatively dispassionate eye on the various schools of history that have prevailed: the protagonists of history as a science, the Frontier school, the Economic Interpretation School, the Marxists, the ``City on the Hill'' enthusiasts, the postmodernists, and the multiculturalists. The very prevalence of the different schools is, in itself, a caution against too heavy a reliance on any one of them, and the authors plump for ``the most objective possible explanations'' and the traditional narrative form of history. They believe passionately in the importance of what they are doing, in the ``intense craving for insight into what it is to be human,'' and reject those who are skeptical of the entire enterprise. The archives in Lyons, France, they note, are ``reached by walking up some three hundred stone steps. For the practical realists...the climb is worth the effort; the relativists would not bother.'' Underlying the argument, the authors contend, is ``the collapse on all fronts of intellectual and political absolutism,'' and they try to cut through the ``variety of noisy conversations'' with a more reasoned and less disputatious view. A tad tactful at times, and occasionally repetitive in noting the central role played by men in most historical accounts, but clearheaded, and often a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-393-03615-4

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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