An intense, important read for anyone interested in the American government’s misguided efforts at Guantánamo.

Two former detainees of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp come forward with their stories after being declared innocent and freed.

After seven years in prison with no charges, Boumediene and Idir finally won the right to challenge their imprisonment in court, and they won. While they were never able to see the classified evidence against them, their lawyers successfully argued that their imprisonment was unconstitutional. In 2001, the two men had been arrested in Bosnia on suspicion of bombing the American Embassy; as they were released, American soldiers, with the permission of the Bosnian government, seized the men and took them to Cuba. This no-frills account of their time in Guantánamo is disturbing, as the authors detail their mistreatment at the hands of prison guards and interrogators and how they were held in outdoor cages as the prison was built around them. Readers will be shocked by the lack of evidence against the men and how the tenuous ties among a group of casual friends fueled the government’s crusade against them. The narrative follows both men in turn, giving each the chance to recount his own unique experience. Kept mostly in separate areas of the detention center, they crossed paths occasionally; throughout, their different accounts of the same events don’t feel repetitive. Other than an introduction and some additional material about the authors’ cases, the book is entirely made up of the words of Boumediene and Idir, translated in interviews with Norland and List. The prose is straightforward, which is appropriate given the raw power of the story. Through hunger strikes, forced feedings, isolation cells, and countless other tribulations, the authors stayed strong, and their faith in themselves and their families kept them going.

An intense, important read for anyone interested in the American government’s misguided efforts at Guantánamo.

Pub Date: April 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5036-0115-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Redwood Press/Stanford Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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