Sometimes gonzo, sometimes hard-charging—a welcome report from the front lines in a time of torment and hope.

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FROM CHERNOBYL WITH LOVE

REPORTING FROM THE RUINS OF THE SOVIET UNION

A then newly minted journalist recounts her sojourn in the one-time Soviet Union, a tumultuous empire desperately searching for its identity.

"The year is 1998, and newspapers are still being read,” writes California-based freelancer Cengel (Exiled: From the Killing Fields of Cambodia to California and Back, 2018, etc.). Looking for a job, the author answered an ad and found herself reporting from the ashes of the former Soviet Union. It was a confusing but compelling place, as her lively narrative reveals. Cengel begins in the once-occupied Baltic republic of Latvia. She made her way to the Ukraine just in time to witness a number of historical events and their aftermaths. Latvia was a particularly unknown spot on the map, or at least in the author’s geography, and moving there was a rare and risky move that came at a time when “communication with far-off countries was less common than it is now.” She quickly made herself at home at a Riga newspaper; soon after that, with her “lurid fascination” for fraught human-interest stories, she became features editor. Among the stories she recounts is that of a gulag survivor who was determined to see the international community recognize and condemn the evils of the totalitarian system that packed him off to Siberia in a railroad car. Another is of a Ukrainian woman who, a slave laborer in Germany during World War II, returned there as a tourist: “It had happened; apologies would now mean nothing." Throughout, Cengel demonstrates a knack for finding compelling stories, including an on-the-ground report from Chernobyl at a time when engineers were still working to cap off the reactor with a cement sarcophagus, “an imperfect and semi-temporary solution” that all these years later remains in place. More than her stories, the author has a fine eye for the details of newsroom politics back when newspapers were read and newsrooms were packed with offbeat characters.

Sometimes gonzo, sometimes hard-charging—a welcome report from the front lines in a time of torment and hope.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64012-204-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 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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