Forget the folderol about telling “the shocking hidden story of the peace process”—for almost nothing about the Vietnam War...

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NO PEACE, NO HONOR

NIXON, KISSINGER, AND BETRAYAL IN VIETNAM

A blow-by-blow accounting of the peace negotiations that ended the war in Vietnam, complete with some (hardly earthshaking) recently declassified material.

Although Nixon and Kissinger spoke of peace with honor, historian Berman (Planning a Tragedy, not reviewed) claims that other goals dominated the protracted negotiations that led to the cessation of armed hostilities between the US and North Vietnam. The US consistently backed off from its promises to both Nguyen Van Thieu and the South Vietnamese people—in Kissinger’s words, it was necessary to “settle the military issues first and leave the political evolution to Vietnam . . . as long as it was done by reasonably democratic processes.” There was little doubt how that evolution would play out, given the puppet nature of the Thieu regime. Berman tells how the North Vietnamese had learned from their deception at the Geneva Accords of 1954 how to compromise, giving ground only at the last minute and forcing Kissinger into such preposterous comments as “These are our last proposals, but not an ultimatum.” While it is true that the US bailed on the South Vietnamese government in 1975, however, it seems somewhat naïve—what Spiro Agnew might have called a piece of ingenuous incredulity—on the part of Berman to call this a betrayal. As he points out himself in his delineation of the secret process of the negotiations, Thieu knew full well that the US considered him expedient only when he wasn’t being a hindrance. Berman’s near-daily recounting of the negotiations, though, combined with scene-setting (if stiff) portraits of all the main players, is a real lesson in the squirrelly craft of finding a road to peace, since someone always holds a better hand.

Forget the folderol about telling “the shocking hidden story of the peace process”—for almost nothing about the Vietnam War could come as a shock anymore. Appreciate this story instead as a choreography of the long and delicate peace dance, and all the toes that were stepped on along the way.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-84968-2

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2001

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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