Raw-edged honesty at its most revealing and intense.

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THE EDUCATION OF KEVIN POWELL

A BOY'S JOURNEY INTO MANHOOD

A noted African-American journalist’s account of his hardscrabble youth and its consequences in later life.

Poet, journalist, and essayist Powell (Barack Obama, Ronald Reagan, and the Ghost of Dr. King, 2012, etc.) grew up the son of a struggling single mother who dreamed he would become “somebody important.” Though loving and encouraging, his mother was also ferociously strict and often beat Powell to keep him on the straight and narrow. Between her brutality and the poverty and violence he faced in the New Jersey ghettos where he grew up, Powell felt as though he were living in a “concrete box” from which there was no escape. Despite the many obstacles he faced and his flirtation with a life of petty crime, he still excelled academically. Yet his suppressed rage and sadness often erupted at unexpected moments and led to arrests and his expulsion from high school. Powell still managed to gain tuition-free acceptance into Rutgers University, where he became involved with black student activists. After the university suspended him for pulling a knife on a fellow student in a fit of frustration, Powell left for New York determined to make a living as a writer. His experiments in poetry and journalism eventually led to a job writing about hip-hop music and culture for Vibe. But his anger at working for two white editors at a black magazine caused him to eventually be fired. Powell’s life spiraled into an abyss of alcoholism, depression, and dysfunctional relationships, one of which ended after he physically attacked his lover. After two unsuccessful runs for Congress, Powell went to Africa, where he finally began to experience personal healing. The author’s story is powerful and unsparing. By the end, his narrative bears witness not only to the life of one black man, but to an American society still bound to a tragic history of racism.

Raw-edged honesty at its most revealing and intense.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4391-6368-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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