An engaging and well-researched look behind the scenes of an important historic era. Highly recommended.

1941

FIGHTING THE SHADOW WAR: A DIVIDED AMERICA IN A WORLD AT WAR

A wide-ranging examination of America’s entry into World War II as the Franklin Roosevelt administration juggled the demands of an isolationist Congress and voices urging early intervention.

Historian Wortman (The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta, 2009, etc.) sets the stage with two writers observing Hitler’s 1939 invasion of Poland, the spark that ignited the European phase of the war. William Shirer, the CBS radio correspondent in Berlin, was already appalled by Nazi oppression; the other, Phillip Johnson, was among the strongest American advocates of fascism. These two represent the two faces of American reaction to the war: conviction that the U.S. would inevitably be drawn into the war and determination to avoid involvement. Wortman expands the scope of the narrative to give a good account of both viewpoints. Isolationists ran the gamut from Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who felt America should fight only in self-defense, to Charles Lindbergh, whose anti-Semitism was at least as important a factor as his belief that Germany was invincible. Meanwhile, Winston Churchill, newly elevated to prime minister, lobbied incessantly for American aid to beleaguered Britain. Germany, Japan, and Italy, convinced that America would eventually take a side, played diplomacy and espionage for all they were worth. Wortman puts all this in the context of the events in Europe and the Pacific that pressured Roosevelt to commit the country to action, including submarine attacks on Atlantic convoys and Japanese aggression in mainland Asia. Plenty of interesting characters, including Roosevelt aide Harry Hopkins and Japanese spy Takeo Yoshikawa, add spice to the story. The author displays a nice sense of the dramatic scene and a solid ear for telling quotes, and ample documentation gives readers the opportunity to look further into the history. Even readers familiar with the broad history of the era are likely to find new insights and new details of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering that preceded Pearl Harbor.

An engaging and well-researched look behind the scenes of an important historic era. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2511-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 10, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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