THE DREAM ENDURES

CALIFORNIA ENTERS THE 1940S

The fifth volume in Starr's grand and wide-ranging history of California (Endangered Dreams, 1995, etc.). Drawing on a wealth of sources, the author offers a panoramic account of the Golden State during the turning-point years before America's entry into WW II. While he first surveys communities (Big Sur, Carmel, Palm Springs, Pasadena, et al.) whose affluent lifestyles not only survived the Depression but also set the pace for the rest of the country, Starr moves on to profile the West Coast's academic enclaves (Berkeley, Palo Alto, Westwood) and great cities (Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco). Covered as well are those who contributed to California's rich cultural heritage in literature (Cain, Chandler, Hammett, and West, to name but a few), painting (notably, the federally subsidized muralists who recorded the past of ``the state with a Mexican accent''), and photography (Ansel Adams, Edward Weston). Not too surprisingly, Starr devotes considerable attention to Hollywood and how its studio system marshaled the artistic resources of a generation to help America (and the wider world) through hard times. In an engrossing chapter felicitously titled ``Ich Bin ein Sñdkalifornier,'' he recounts how the rise of the Third Reich induced scores of German actors, composers, writers, and other intellectuals to seek refuge from Nazi oppression in filmdom's capital, where they promptly and thoroughly Europeanized the motion-picture industry. Using this productive context as a departure point, the author closes with a somber assessment of the ways in which California's ÇmigrÇ communities dealt with a global outbreak of anti-Semitism and (with fellow exile Leon Feuchtwanger) pondered whether Jewish civilization could reconstitute itself. A penetrating addition to an altogether splendid series, which (thanks to the broad appeal of its subject matter and period) could prove a breakout book.

Pub Date: April 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-19-510079-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1997

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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