A lively, chatty exploration of a life that veered in many intriguing directions.

The biography of a little-known figure who escaped Nazi Germany as a teenager and, after a colorful series of careers, went to work as a cataloger for the Library of Congress for two decades.

The first book by fellow librarian Stewart takes advantage of Ruth Rappaport's (1923-2010) voluminous diaries and letters as well as an oral history recorded a few weeks before her death, all now stored at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In 1938, then 15-year-old Rappaport, “a diligent, intense, bespectacled bookworm who questioned everyone and everything,” boarded a train for a visit from her home in Leipzig to Zurich and then refused to go back with the mother who, like her father, would later die in a concentration camp. In Zurich, she was taken in by a series of foster families, one of which complained that she was “spoiled and self-important,” while she waited to get a visa to the United States. A year later, she moved in with her wealthy aunt and uncle in Seattle, where she continued a heavy involvement with the Zionist movement that she had begun back in Germany. After years of dropping into and out of college and working for various papers in Israel, Paris, and New York, she settled on librarianship as a career. In Saigon during the Vietnam War, she was responsible for establishing a network of libraries for those in all of the armed forces. Then, from 1971 to 1993, she worked as a cataloger at the Library of Congress, where her first job was to recatalog a collection that included “pornography, erotica, race-track guides and other items confiscated by the FBI.” Stewart is frank about Rappaport's prickly personality, her tendency to carry on with married men, and the idealism that led her to abandon one project or person after another. Those details, coupled with more admirable qualities like curiosity and drive, serve to make her an entertaining presence.

A lively, chatty exploration of a life that veered in many intriguing directions.

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0415-6

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Little A

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019


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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