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THE YELLOW ENVELOPE

ONE GIFT, THREE RULES, AND A LIFE-CHANGING JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD

Readers won’t accuse the author of sugarcoating her experiences, and if the narrative sometimes seems to bog down in...

In 2012, sick of her job and uncertain about her marriage, Dinan (Life on Fire: A Step-By-Step Guide to Living Your Dreams, 2013, etc.) quit work and persuaded her reluctant husband to sell their house and other belongings and take off for more than two years to travel around the world.

Along with them went the envelope of the title, which contained $1,000 handed to them by Dinan’s former boss, with the instruction that the money was to be given away during the trip. She attached three provisos: “Don’t over think it”; “Share your experiences (…if you want to)”; and “Don’t feel pressured to give it all away.” The first goal proved easier said than done; the second the author accomplishes in this book. At first waffling about whether she would seem condescending or culturally insensitive, she gradually began to feel comfortable with distributing the cash to a school where they volunteered in Ecuador, a rickshaw driver in India, a dog shelter, a Nepalese holy woman, and the owners of a turtle sanctuary in Bali. If the yellow envelope provides one strand unifying the book, Dinan’s marital troubles form the other. Readers looking for insight into the locales through which the author traveled instead receive sometimes-repetitive descriptions of quarrels in which the author blames her husband for her unhappiness and he refuses to take the blame. The two separated temporarily, with the author climbing “into a rickshaw with two women I’d never met before to drive the length of India on some of the world’s deadliest roads.” Overall, Dinan narrates a memorable adventure even if she spends a good deal of time brooding about her marriage.

Readers won’t accuse the author of sugarcoating her experiences, and if the narrative sometimes seems to bog down in self-analysis, it’s likely an accurate account of her interior life on the road.

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3538-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • IndieBound Bestseller


  • National Book Award Winner


  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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

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