An abiding devotion to a place and its inhabitants: sentimental in the right way, mnemonic, tempting.

Knopp (Creative Nonfiction/Goucher College) knows home in all its complexity, manifestations, and vicissitudes, and it’s found for her in southeastern Nebraska.

Twenty-two essays on aspects of home, companionable but distinct, linked by formal and personal lexicographic explorations, make up Knopp’s thoughts on “what is home, how one might find it . . . how the presence or absence of home affects the way one feels, thinks, and acts, both as an individual and a member of a community, society, or nation.” Home for Knopp is geographical, emotional, cultural, and portable (which doesn’t preclude homesickness but rather encourages it). And for her it arouses a protectiveness—for the tall-grass prairie of her home has been nothing if not tinkered with, from sod busters to river channelers, exploiting the land instead of shepherding it, losing balance, getting a surfeit of carp and along with it a dearth of sturgeon—an example of “the justice to extending the right to life and habitat to all creatures, with exceptions made on for dangerous bacteria or viruses.” But Knopp doesn’t often hedge her bets; she is devoted to the foxtail barley of the endangered salt marsh, to cold and lightning, meteors and wind, finding and creating a home in their midst. Humans, too, figure in her place, from the sense of “homewell,” where “you feel rooted, nurtured, aligned, synchronized, whole, plugged in, and flowing” (there are moments of such overwriting: “The collected essays seem to reveal a scheme, design, method, plan”), to the sense of deep community, tending to each other’s needs, growth, and expression. There are also instances of confusion—she’ll speak assuredly of “headmemory” (bound by image and language) and “body memory” (bound by sensation), then 30 pages later write that “even people who know better have a hard time letting go of the body-mind dichotomy.” Evidently, she should have known better.

An abiding devotion to a place and its inhabitants: sentimental in the right way, mnemonic, tempting.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2002

ISBN: 0-8032-2754-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2002


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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