A lightweight look at an earth-changing moment.




Popular history of the Wright Brothers’ early success.

Tise (History/East Carolina Univ.; Hidden Images: Discovering Details in the Wright Brothers' Kitty Hawk Photographs, 1900–1911, 2005) hones in on one aspect of Wilbur and Orville’s famous story. The secretive bike manufacturers of Dayton, Ohio, chose Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, to test their gliding contraptions because of its exceptional winds, soft sand for crash landings and remoteness from prying eyes. From light gliders they moved to a 750-pound gasoline-driven powered flyer, and in 1903 became “the first men on earth to control a powered flying machine across an expanse of level ground at least a few feet above the sandy surface.” By October 1905, in Dayton, they had succeeded in extending the small jumps to a historic 39.5 minutes over a course of 24 miles. However, they stopped flying in 1905 in order to perfect their invention, sell the idea to the competing military powers of the day and take measures to protect their proprietary knowledge. As part of the sell, they had to demonstrate their flying prowess, and by the spring of 1908 they were back in Kitty Hawk assembling their modified biplane. This time, the world’s press got wind and descended on the small spit of land, hiding in the shrubbery and picking up the yarns spun by the excitable locals from the lifesaving club as well as tales by the station operator of the nearby U.S. Weather Bureau. “The stories were so absurd that the Wrights, when they read them, could only laugh at the wild exaggerations,” writes Tise. Nonetheless, over those ten days in May their unprecedented exploits would be broadcast to the world. Taking a conversational, personal tone, the author eschews even cursory examination of the technology for a folksy approach, which reveals many intriguing anecdotes but offers little lasting insight.

A lightweight look at an earth-changing moment.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-230-61490-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2009

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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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