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 20, 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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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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