So engaging that readers will crave a sequel: Belafonte since the ’70s?

BECOMING BELAFONTE

BLACK ARTIST, PUBLIC RADICAL

The rise of the once-popular singer and actor (b. 1927) who used his celebrity and suasion to aid liberal causes.

Few books have a more accurate title and subtitle than this one. Smith (American Studies/Univ. of Massachusetts, Boston; Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960, 2004, etc.) focuses sharply on Belafonte’s background: his boyhood in Harlem, early departure from high school, stint in the segregated U.S. Navy, experiences with Jim Crow (which outraged him) and eventual decision to become an actor in New York. Smith periodically reminds us of Belafonte’s friendship with singer/actor/political activist Paul Robeson, who served as mentor for the young man and whom Belafonte continues to credit. The author also shows how Belafonte, discouraged that there were so few acting opportunities for black performers, moved toward music, a career for which he’d had no formal training or real experience. But he had talent. He had colleagues and mentors ranging from Charlie Parker to folksingers of the 1940s and ’50s: Lead Belly, Josh White, Pete Seeger and others. As Smith points out repeatedly, Belafonte also had an electrifying stage presence and a steamy sexuality that soon rocketed him into popularity. He devoted himself to human rights causes throughout his career, using his celebrity and evincing no fear that he would hurt himself financially. He became an intimate of Martin Luther King Jr. and used his unusual (for the time) access to TV and movies to promote his agenda. Smith gives us plenty of detail about his movies (the good, bad and ugly), his recordings, his relationships with women, and his battles with the ugly racial status quo in 1950s and ’60s America.

So engaging that readers will crave a sequel: Belafonte since the ’70s?

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-292-72914-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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