A persuasive case that history matters and that the past is prologue.

ON ACCOUNT OF RACE

THE SUPREME COURT, WHITE SUPREMACY, AND THE RAVAGING OF AFRICAN AMERICAN VOTING RIGHTS

An expert on constitutional law skewers the U.S. Supreme Court for its failure to strike down practices that disenfranchise black citizens.

As controversies arise in 2020 about Republican Party operatives hoping to win elections by removing potentially hostile voters from election rolls, Goldstone looks back primarily at 19th-century court rulings to demonstrate that the justices—all of them white males—never intended to uphold the true meaning of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. The author’s phrasing is necessarily uncompromising throughout. “In the decades after the Civil War…the Supreme Court,” he writes, “always claiming strict adherence to the law, regularly flexed [its] judicial muscles and chose, in decision after decision, to allow white supremacists to re-create a social order at odds with legislation that Congress had passed, the president had signed, and the states had ratified.” Those rulings rendered Constitutional amendments “hollow and meaningless.” The bigotry and cowardice of the justices allowed Southern states and some Northern states to deny voting rights to blacks with impunity. The shameful behavior extended to justices who have been lionized by historians as beacons of intellectual prowess and fairness. The most significant example is Oliver Wendell Holmes. Goldstone cites Giles v. Harris (1903) as a prime example of how Holmes “distort[ed]…constitutional principles” to deny qualified black citizens the right to vote. In the brief but insightful epilogue, the author wonders whether the morally corrupt justices conceive of the Constitution as a mere assemblage of words or as a grand idea meant to guarantee “fundamental justice” for all U.S. citizens, regardless of race. Without referring directly to the Supreme Court circa 2020, Goldstone posits that democracy can survive only if “all Americans insist that their fellow citizens, no matter what their race, gender, religion, or political belief, be allowed to participate in choosing the nation’s leaders.” Indeed, “it is a simple rule, one ordinary citizens, elected officials, and especially Supreme Court justices should not forget.”

A persuasive case that history matters and that the past is prologue.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64009-392-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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