CARRIED TO THE WALL

AMERICAN MEMORY AND THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL

paper 0-520-21317-3 A dissertation-like examination of why people leave many and varied objects at the Veterans Memorial in Washington. Hass (American Culture/Univ. of Michigan) sees several reasons behind the outpouring of objects—what she calls a “strong, multivocal, contradictory, unsolicited public response”—that have been left at the wall since it was dedicated on the Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1982. Some of the reasons are obvious: the emotional need to remember the dead; the patriotic and nationalist impulses to honor their service; the reaction by Vietnam veterans against the national cold shoulder given to them after they came home from America’s most controversial overseas war. Others are less obvious: the fact that the memorial’s simple design “tacitly asked people to respond” with “their own interpretations,” and the grave-decorating traditions of African- Americans, Mexican-Americans, Italian-Americans, and some American Indians. In her chapter on American military memorializing history, Hass places great import on the aftermath of the Battle of Gettysburg, when for the first time “common American soldiers were buried individually in graves marked with their names.” Hass ties these varied themes together well. Her writing, for the most part, is clean and clear. Only occasionally does she slip into turgid academes. Hass seems to have done a thorough job of researching this multidisciplinary topic. There is, however, one glaring error. Hass repeats the myth that more Vietnam veterans have committed suicide than were killed in the war. In an otherwise profusely documented book, she offers only an ambiguous citation for this assertion. But the truth is that the suicide statement has no basis in fact. Hass proves much better at examining and explaining the reasons behind the myth that Vietnam kept American POWs after the war. A sometimes illuminating look at a unique national phenomenon. (16 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-520-20413-1

Page Count: 179

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1998

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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...

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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