A moving reminder of a painful episode in American history.




The history behind the 1976 Pulitzer Prize–winning photograph of an enraged white man lunging to spear a black man with a pole holding the American flag.

The assault occurred during the disastrous attempt to integrate Boston schools by busing, brilliantly described by J. Anthony Lukas in Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (1985), which also garnered a Pulitzer. Emulating Lukas’s format, Masur (American Institutions and Values/Trinity Coll.; Autumn Glory: Baseball’s First World Series, 2003, etc.) delves into every aspect of the event in addition to exploring the lives of the photo’s three participants: attacker, victim and photographer. Readers will enjoy his history of the American flag as an object of almost religious veneration. A parallel account surveys flag desecration, which peaked during the Vietnam War era. Desecration has largely migrated overseas, Masur comments, but the act continues to enrage conservative Congressmen, who work hard every year to pass a constitutional amendment outlawing it. While the two figures in the photo receive their due—Joseph Rakes, the attacker, and Ted Landsmark, the victim—the author writes far more about newsman Stanley Forman and his picture. Forman arrived late for the anti-busing demonstration. Other newsmen were following the crowd, but he got there as it approached and crossed paths with the black man, so Forman had the only clear view of the assault. Luck played a vital role in his getting the shot, as it often does in scoops, but the author notes that Forman had already received a Pulitzer for another stunning picture and would go on to win other awards, so his talent was an obvious factor as well. Masur draws an analogy between the sensation produced by this and two other iconic, flag-related photographs: raising the flag over Iwo Jima in 1945 and over the rubble of the World Trade Center in 2001.

A moving reminder of a painful episode in American history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59691-364-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2007

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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

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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