Smith could have smoothed his narrative into a more coherent story, but he offers a somewhat provocative look at an...

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THE STRONG HORSE

POWER, POLITICS, AND THE CLASH OF ARAB CIVILIZATIONS

A view of what the “Arab street” has to say about current affairs—the only problem being, as the author notes, there’s not any such thing.

By Weekly Standard Middle East correspondent Smith’s account, the Arab world is fragmented, rife with divisions and plagued by poor leadership on all sides. The author also claims that 9/11 was a manifestation less of the war between America and Islam—he means, perhaps, Islamism—than of that among Arab factions, which means “strange as it sounds, the attacks on New York and Washington were not really about us.” Perhaps, but the attacks killed many Americans and led to the deaths of many Arabs, notably in Iraq. Smith does well to reiterate the fact that the Arab world is not monolithic and that not everyone is a suicide bomber. Some of his neoconnish prescriptions will seem comforting to those who urge that we take the war to the enemy—whoever the enemy really is—rather than have al-Qaeda march down the streets of Washington, and he casts them in fire-and-brimstone terms well suited to monotheistic climes: “he who punishes enemies and rewards friends, forbids evil and enjoins good, is entitled to rule, and no other.” Smith’s book quickly betrays its origins as a loosely assembled collection of journalistic pieces, some ephemeral, others more substantial. It is pleasant, but not terribly revealing, to know that the actor Omar Sharif has opinions about the purity of the Arabic language, and a little more useful but still disjointed to work Edward Said’s notions of orientalism into the discussion.

Smith could have smoothed his narrative into a more coherent story, but he offers a somewhat provocative look at an endlessly troubled region.

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-385-51611-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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...

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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