OUTSIDE PASSAGE

A MEMOIR OF AN ALASKAN CHILDHOOD

An anecdotal and generally unreflective coming-of-age account set mainly in the Alaskan frontier. A former editor of Modern Photography, Scully endured an impoverished childhood: She and her older sister were placed in children's homes in San Francisco and later Seattle while their mother, Rose, a Jewish immigrant from Europe, struggled to make a go of it on the remote Seward Peninsula in and about Nome, working as a cook in a gold-mining camp, operating a roadhouse, and finding work in the home and shop of a Jewish merchant. Julia and her sister, Lillian, later followed their mother, living isolated but seemingly happy lives. Seasonal migrants, the family would shelter in Nome; it is here that Rose set up a housekeeping arrangement with Hessel, a liquor-store owner with a wife in San Franciso, who Scully claims ensured their isolation from the community and led Rose to seek an abortion, a fact gleaned by Scully years later. Nome, at the beginning of the war, when Scully was 12, bustled with sailors and marines, and in a town with few available women, young Julia has an eventful teenagehood. Soon after the war, she makes a break with the family and leaves to attend college. Scully's portraits of the gold miners, Eskimos, and sailors are warm and amusing, but throughout most of this short book, the depictions of Rose and Lillian are emotionally detached; Scully is unable, maybe due to her youth at the time and the subsequent span of years, to create an interior life for either member of her family, and her own emotions and concerns remain unrevealed, save for a sudden gush of self-awareness in the final chapters. This chronology of a hard and unusual childhood offers a good snapshot of the struggles of a Depression-era family in one of the more remote outposts in America, but it lacks the dramatic impact that these circumstances conferred upon the three women.

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-375-50083-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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