Scattered, sometimes-heartwarming memories may inspire in this anecdote-heavy text.

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From Sharecropping to Non-Stopping

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE FROM A VETERAN EDUCATOR

Hill’s (It’s All About the Children, 2011) eclectic memoir recounts her life in the 1940s and ’50s as one of six children in a close-knit sharecropper family.

As a child, Hill was accustomed to not having electricity, refrigeration (the iceman came in a horse-drawn wagon), or running water (they used an outhouse), “but that did not mean [she] liked it.” The author, who is African-American, went to segregated schools—white students were bussed while she had to walk—but the black and white children often mingled en route. “Our conversations were polite and good natured, as most conversations between children are,” writes Hill. Class work was a welcome challenge (although she admits she rebelliously just “pretended to read” boring textbooks her parents insisted she study). In 1957, at 16, she enrolled in Virginia’s Norfolk State University, a small all-black school, to learn to be a secretary (one of the sure jobs open to women in that era), but gradually, she moved into teaching. She straightforwardly, sometimes monotonously, chronicles anecdotes about boyfriends, sit-ins, the civil service, marriage to her first husband (a compulsive gambler), and her career as an educator in California. While the memoir gives a full and candid account of the author’s trajectory (Hill never sugarcoats her faults), it lacks a sense of place once she leaves her Southern childhood home for California. She’s open about her rather ordinary shortcomings (gossip, prejudice, temper) and sees even missteps as a plus: “I can’t think of anything in my life that wasn’t in some way a lesson. I have been able to pull some good out of anything, to make lemonade out of lemons. I’ve had to do it all my life.” In a final note that shows her practical sense of humor, the book concludes with a short funeral service she’s composed for herself. It’s complete with instructions (“You should get to the funeral early so that people won’t have to move over”) and warnings (“My spirit is in this room so please don’t revise what I have written...I don’t want anyone leaving, saying ‘Gosh, that sure was a long funeral’ ”).

Scattered, sometimes-heartwarming memories may inspire in this anecdote-heavy text.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-6879-2

Page Count: 150

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 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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