Geographers and American history buffs will enjoy Fenster’s detailed research on these fascinating men, her easy style of...

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JEFFERSON'S AMERICA

THE PRESIDENT, THE PURCHASE, AND THE EXPLORERS WHO TRANSFORMED A NATION

The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory for $15 million but did not know its borders. Fenster (FDR's Shadow: Louis Howe, The Force that Shaped Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, 2009, etc.) ably depicts the men who set out to discover them.

We all know about Lewis and Clark, but there were other parties seeking the territory’s boundaries. The author narrates the wonderful and twisted story of how Napoleon’s France acquired the territory from Spain and then sold it a year later to America, while Spain did their best to block exploration. The threat of war with Spain was a constant, with explorers on alert. Thomas Jefferson sought men who would make a geographic record, interact and seek peace with Native Americans, and survey sites for forts. Most importantly, they were to conduct experiments to establish longitude and latitude, describe the land, and collect mineral, vegetable, and animal specimens. “Jefferson had in mind a very special combination of characteristics when he chose his explorers,” writes the author. Andrew Ellicott and Thomas Freeman were appointed to survey the 31st parallel boundary between the Floridas and the Mississippi territory, working in cooperation with William Dunbar, a brilliant but difficult polymath. The self-serving Gen. James Wilkinson, a subject worth a book on his own, often got in the way and collected salary from Spain and America. In spite of Wilkinson, however, the 31st parallel project was completed. Lewis and Clark’s Missouri River expedition may have been the longest, but equally important were Dunbar and chemist George Hunter’s work on the Ouachita River as well as Zebulon Pike’s discovery of the source of the Mississippi and his attempts to link up with Freeman’s Red River expedition.

Geographers and American history buffs will enjoy Fenster’s detailed research on these fascinating men, her easy style of writing, and tales beyond the textbooks. She opens an entirely new vista on those who opened the West.

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-307-95648-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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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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