Essential for all who follow world events.



Illuminating account of the origins of sectarian violence and the current political shape of the Muslim world.

“What happened to us?” So runs a common refrain in households from Pakistan to Libya. Beirut-born journalist Ghattas (The Secretary: A Journey With Hillary Clinton From Beirut to the Heart of American Power, 2013), now at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, locates an answer in three events of the same year, all tightly linked: the overthrow of the shah and the revolution in Iran, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the attack on the Grand Mosque of Mecca by Saudi militants. “Nothing has changed the Arab and Muslim world as deeply and fundamentally as the events of 1979,” she writes. Her fluid, fast-moving narrative ably proves the thesis. The Iranian Revolution put into sharp relief the ancient division between Shia and Sunni Islam, an argument at once religious and political, with the Ayatollah Khomeini and his successors vying for power with an implacably opposed—though just as conservative—form of Islam. The struggle has played out in many times and places over centuries, but since 1979, it has taken a form more familiar to Westerners. While occasionally Shia and Sunni clerics allied to battle a common enemy, such as the secularist Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the two powers of Iran and Saudi Arabia have more often squared off through proxies in Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and particularly Pakistan after the withdrawal of the Soviets from neighboring Afghanistan—a defeat paid for by Saudi money but whose aftermath was swayed by Iran. One constant in the narrative: Wherever Americans have been involved, the aftereffects have been worse, whether attacking Iraq in 1991 and 2003 or attempting to shift the balance of power in the Middle East, with the bumbling of the current administration enabling such things as the savage murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The headlines from the Middle East make a little more sense through the lens Ghattas provides.

Essential for all who follow world events.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-13120-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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

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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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