A well-meaning, thoroughly researched, but ultimately redundant historical survey.

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Lift Ev'ry Voice

An anthology of notable African-American figures throughout history.

Harriet Tubman, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Arthur Ashe, and Billie Holiday are only a few of the many celebrated names that make up this anthology of black life in America. Retired teacher Whitlow chronicles the lives of African-Americans who are still written about and celebrated today, from Louis Armstrong’s early dive-bar days to Rosa Parks’ famous act of civil disobedience in Montgomery, Alabama. As even this small sample of names suggests, the author doesn’t limit her scope to political agitators, but includes artists, musicians, athletes, and other figures from all walks of public life, presented in alphabetical order. Thus dancer Josephine Baker appears next to writer James Baldwin, while musician and entertainer Fats Waller precedes educator and author Booker T. Washington. Some entries stretch far back in time—Pierre Toussaint, a freed slave turned New York City philanthropist, was born in 1766—while others, such as musician Michael Jackson, are more modern. Whitlow has compiled a collection of resources that one can imagine a young student finding useful for a school project, as each entry contains detailed biographical information and spans each subject’s life comprehensively. However, most entries read as dry factual summations of her subjects’ often thrilling and vital lives. Although the author does occasionally describe a scene in more detail (Parks’ famous bus ride, for instance), most of the entries are so short that they don’t have time to get into the more idiosyncratic details of these lives and personalities. A more engaging style of writing might have made the chapters’ brevity a less serious problem, but it’s hard to imagine young readers getting drawn into this book. As an educational resource, though, it could prove useful; although much of this information can be found online, teachers and librarians may still find it a handy addition to school libraries.

A well-meaning, thoroughly researched, but ultimately redundant historical survey.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4990-6310-3

Page Count: 470

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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