With lively prose, Hoganson delivers an eye-opening, outside-the-box book that is mind-bending in all the right ways.

THE HEARTLAND

AN AMERICAN HISTORY

A revelatory examination of America’s “symbolic center in national mythologies.”

After teaching at Harvard and living in the Washington, D.C., area, among other stops, Hoganson (History/Univ. of Illinois; American Empire at the Turn of the Twentieth Century: A Brief History with Documents, 2016, etc.) found herself unexpectedly transplanted to the Midwest. Instead of readily accepting stereotypes of the nation’s so-called heartland, she began mining the roots of many of these preconceptions. The result is this brilliantly reasoned, meticulously researched book, which refreshingly pushes against stereotypes at every turn. The author demonstrates how the stereotypes and myths about the heartland eventually became conventional wisdom. For decades, any attentive Midwesterner has known that Illinois is not Iowa, is not Missouri, is not Indiana, etc. However, even Hoganson had not realized the gap between reality and the lumped-together reputation of many of these states. For this book, she first began digging into data close to her new home in Urbana-Champaign, where the University of Illinois is located, and then moved beyond to explore community and national elements. Hoganson looked at practices that many conventional scholars have missed: how the raising of cattle for beef led Midwestern farmers to interact with markets around the world, how the raising of hogs for pork led to many of the same results, how most Midwestern voters have never subscribed to isolationist politics, and how so-called flyover country turned out to be anything but boringly flat and technologically backward. Consistently, the author persuasively argues that the term “heartland” must be retired; the geographic center of the United States, she writes, is pulsing with global connections, innovations, varieties of human experiences, and ecological diversity. Hoganson closes by reiterating how “the heartland myth came to be so commensensical: its scaled-up localness is far easier to grasp than the vast complexity of the real world.”

With lively prose, Hoganson delivers an eye-opening, outside-the-box book that is mind-bending in all the right ways.

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59420-357-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 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...

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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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