paper 0-8263-1959-9 An introspective memoir in which the first-time author bluntly and self-critically examines his life before, during, and after his service in Vietnam. Ramirez grew up in a middle-class Mexican-American household in northern California. At 18, he enlisted in the Marine Corps, served two brutal tours in Vietnam, and came home extremely embittered. In Vietnam “I lost almost everything I knew and believed in,” Ramirez says. “I lost my innocence, I lost my faith, I lost my own family, I lost my patriotism and national pride, and I lost what little self-respect I had.” Life after Vietnam became an emotional roller coaster during which Ramirez drank and used drugs to excess, committed various crimes, and abused his wife. He also tried suicide. After many attempts at counseling, the author stopped drinking in1983, and today leads a productive life, with his own landscaping business. This redemptive story, originally written in 1986 as an undergraduate thesis, also served him as a form of much-needed therapy. “Working on this book was a necessary spiritual journey,” Ramirez reports, “it wasn’t just rehashing my life, it was coming to terms with my life.” He directly addresses the darkest side of his wartime and postwar experiences, reeling off instance after instance of his own antisocial and self-destructive behavior. “I had,” he notes, “many moments when I was a complete jerk and idiot.” This seeming guilelessness is one of the book’s strong points. Another is Ramirez’s well-crafted section on his family and Mexican roots, a rarity among Vietnam War memoirs. He ends with a convincing plea that his serious maladjustment problems should not add to the already “damaging myths about the Vietnam veteran.” An unusual look at the war and its consequences. (3 photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8263-1958-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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