A sympathetic portrait of—and tribute to—a brave and committed human being.

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JANE ADDAMS

SPIRIT IN ACTION

Biography of social reformer and peace activist Jane Addams (1860–1935).

Knight (Citizen: Jane Addams and the Struggle for Democracy, 2005) begins with a speech the 72-year-old Addams, by then a Nobel laureate, made in 1933, which urged her audience to break free from conventional thinking. Knight uses Addams’s thesis as the key to understanding her life. Scarred by the early death of her mother, Addams grew up in a traditionally Christian home. Her father, a gender traditionalist, had only domestic ambitions for Jane and refused to send her to Smith College to study medicine. So she went to Rockford Female Seminary, where she encountered an influential teacher who inspired her with the writings of Margaret Fuller. Addams earned academic honors, and when her father died, leaving Addams financially secure, she went to Europe, where poverty depressed her but where Tolstoy’s religious writings and London’s Toynbee Hall, a settlement house, animated her. In 1889, she moved to Chicago, where she opened the country’s first settlement house, located in the former home of Charles Hull. Hull House, writes Knight, swiftly became—and remains—a powerful social-service agency in the city. While Addams assailed poverty and illness, she also addressed the related issues of gender, race and peace. Involved deeply in the women’s-suffrage movement, she was an early advocate for the new NAACP and fought tirelessly for peace, though during World War I she suffered from attacks on her patriotism. She wrote bestsellers, spoke all over the world and was without question the most celebrated woman in America. Knight is an enthusiastic Addams partisan—the writing is occasionally treacly—rarely finding anything negative to say, and is reluctant, even coy, about declaring that Addams’s decades-long relationship with Mary Rozert Smith was anything more than a friendship.

A sympathetic portrait of—and tribute to—a brave and committed human being.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-07165-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2010

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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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