A valuable, unique addition to the canon of survivor stories.

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SURVIVING STUTTHOF

A FINNISH SAILOR'S TRUE STORY OF SURVIVING STUTTHOF

In Kovala's moving biographical debut novel, a daughter tells the story of her Finnish father's survival in a Nazi concentration camp.

Like many who were impacted by World War II, Aarne Kovala rarely spoke of his experiences. After almost 70 years, he shared his story with his daughter Liisa. The resulting biography based on his life is a visceral expose of life in Stutthof, a concentration camp near what is now Gdansk, Poland. The book opens with Aarne's boyhood innocence prematurely shattered by the Russian bombing of his hometown. He witnessed the horror of a Russian airman bailing out only for his parachute to fail. The Russo-Finnish War ended, but World War II was gathering momentum and Nazi soldiers occupied his town. After losing his brother Veikko, Aarne felt the draw of manhood and headed for Helsinki, where he lied and said he was 16 to get a job on a merchant ship, the Wappu. While it was docked in Danzig, Nazi soldiers stormed the vessel, seizing the sailors' passports and taking them prisoner. They were first detained in an empty warehouse, then transported by train in cattle cars to Stutthof. There, he began an unfathomable existence among the dead and the dying, witnessing the extremes of human brutality at the hands of the Nazis. Nevertheless, this is a story of hope, resilience, and camaraderie. One touching scene describes a starving fellow prisoner giving Aarne a stolen baked potato: "The flavour filled his mouth like an explosion. The heat travelled through his body and into his stomach, where it quickly filled the tiny space for the first time in weeks. It was the best thing he had ever tasted." Kovala's writing is laconic yet evocative. She offers readers a sensorial exploration of the camp, regardless of how uncomfortable it may be. The suffering is palpable, yet readers will rejoice in each of the minor victories. In this personal labor of love, the care Kovala takes in recounting her father's experience is evident on every page.

A valuable, unique addition to the canon of survivor stories.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Latitude 46

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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