Elegantly crafted writing on contentious subject matter.

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OLD NEW WORLDS

A TALE OF TWO IMMIGRANTS

In this cross-genre work, Krummeck (Beyond the Baobab, 2014) interweaves a memoir of her immigration to America with a creative imagining of her great-great-grandmother’s journey to South Africa as a missionary’s wife.

In January 1815, English newlyweds Sarah and George Barker traveled to Portsmouth to board a ship bound for the Cape of Good Hope. During their voyage to Africa, where they planned to do missionary work with the Khoikhoi people, an armed American merchant ship fired on their vessel. It was the first of many perils that the couple would face during their travels. The author says that she felt a sense of kinship with her great-great-grandmother Sarah after she herself emigrated from Cape Town to the United States, 182 years later. She tells of meeting her future husband, an American French-horn player, while working as a radio host in Johannesburg and goes on to recall how she later became immersed in the story of her missionary forebears. Drawing upon family archives, her study recounts two radically diverse personal journeys that link across the ages. Krummeck’s own story is written as a memoir, but Sarah’s reads like a historical novel, with factual material and imagined dialogue side by side. These forms elegantly dovetail when the author inserts her first-person perspective into Sarah’s narrative: “Sarah had conceived her fourth child around the time of their third wedding anniversary—I like to think on their wedding anniversary.” Krummeck also evocatively describes the landscape through her ancestor’s eyes: “The clean air was pure and rich, the redolent earth a tawny ochre.” The present and past meld well, creating a sense that the author has a foot in both worlds. Nevertheless, this will prove an uncomfortable read for those who view the Barkers’ missionary vision negatively. For example, George declares, “I work to try to give these people a life of dignity and purpose,” implying that the Khoikhoi people are incapable of either without guidance. Krummeck portrays George as being progressive for his time, as he stood against apartheid in its “fledging form.” Still, such issues are sure to divide reader opinion.

Elegantly crafted writing on contentious subject matter.

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950584-09-3

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Green Place Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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