All entries in the voluminous literature on Dickinson are controversial—some will bristle at such a positive depiction of...

An elegant recovery of the two women without whom “Because I could not stop for Death” likely wouldn’t be required reading for American high school students.

During her lifetime, Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) didn’t publish much, but after she died, her brother’s mistress took up the cause of Dickinson’s verse. Mabel Loomis Todd is one of the stock characters of the Dickinson story. Dobrow (Director, Center for Interdisciplinary Studies/Tufts Univ.) spent years in the massive Todd archives—Yale’s Sterling Library holds more than 700 boxes of diaries, journals, and notes about psychiatric sessions—in order to recount, with sympathy and nuance, Todd’s near obsession with editing Dickinson, securing a publisher, and publicizing the poet on the lecture circuit. While telling Todd’s story, the author sensitively explores the (much-criticized) editorial choices Todd made and the question of who was responsible for the “legend” of Emily-the-recluse-in-white. Less well known than Todd is her daughter, Millicent Todd Bingham, who completes Dobrow’s twinned biography. Bingham grew up immersed in her mother’s obsession with Dickinson: “Initiation into the vagaries of Emily’s handwriting is one of the earliest rites I can recall,” she once said. As an adult, she took over the work, publishing yet-unseen poems and letters and delving into arguments about copyright and archive battles. (Dobrow manages to make wrangling between university libraries fascinating.) The author reduces neither woman to her devotion to Dickinson. She attends to their professional accomplishments, world travels, marriages, and passion for conservation. The book, then, is about the Belle of Amherst, but it is also about being a working woman, a mother, and a daughter.

All entries in the voluminous literature on Dickinson are controversial—some will bristle at such a positive depiction of Todd or suggest that some of Dickinson’s relatives deserve more charity or credit. One hopes the controversy will simply bring increased attention to Dobrow’s fresh, remarkable account.

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-24926-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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