Another entry in Northwestern's ``Jewish Lives'' series (for another, see Ruth Liepman, Maybe Luck Isn't Just Chance, p. 1690), this volume recounts the experiences of a young Polish-Jewish girl between 1939 and 1945. Fishman (nÇe Clara Weintraub) was the daughter of secular, comfortable, if not prosperous, Russian Jews. Her father was a successful jazz musician in Lvov and, for a time, head of the musicians' union in that city; her mother's family had enjoyed some success in business. The Weintraubs' world was shattered repeatedly, first by pogroms, then by the Russian Revolution, and finally, and most appallingly, by the Holocaust. At first, fate was kind to them, with Lvov falling under the jurisdiction of the Red Army, but when Hitler invaded Russia and the Russians were driven out of Poland by the Wehrmacht, the round-ups and mass murders began. Lala avoided the fate that befell most of her family because she was resourceful, spunky, and a blue-eyed blonde. She managed to successfully pass for a Polish Catholic under the fictional name Urszula Krzyzanowska, narrowly avoiding arrest and certain death on numerous occasions. Like so many other recent Holocaust memoirs, this volume serves as an important reminder of the cataclysm's terrible cost, of the sheer viciousness with which the Nazis attacked not only the Jews but also the civilian population of Poland. Indeed, the most riveting section of the book is a lengthy recounting of the first day of the war, the chaos, noise, dirt, smoke, blood, and wreckage, as experienced by a teenage girl. At its best, Lala's Story reads like a good thriller. At its worst it is perfunctory but never dull. Among the better recent Holocaust memoirs, with a firm grounding in Polish-Jewish history and an admirable frankness that makes no effort to disguise its heroine's human foibles.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 1998

ISBN: 0-8101-1499-2

Page Count: 351

Publisher: Northwestern Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1997

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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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