An often engaging and atypical historical biography.



A family history that doubles as an immigration primer.

This biography of Knapp’s grandmother highlights her participation in the illegal liquor trade during the Prohibition era. The author, a community activist, tells the story of a Russian Jewish immigrant family in Boston who later moved out to the country in Wilmington, Massachusetts. The book’s main focus, however, is on the resourcefulness and resilience of the widowed Rebecca Goldberg amid many hardships and obstacles. It highlights her foray into the 1920s liquor market, emphasizing that she only did it for her family’s survival and that her participation lasted only until it became too risky; along the way, she was tried in court for selling liquor to a detective and found not guilty. The work includes family photos, illustrations, as well as reprints of relevant newspaper clippings. Overall, Knapp, the author of A Steadfast Spirit (2017), presents a solid personal history over the course of the text. However, as a microhistory of the Jewish immigration experience in the early 20th century, it’s somewhat limited, although the opening chapter about the journey from pre-revolutionary Russia works well. Other historical information seems extraneous, however, such as an overly lengthy discussion of what Goldberg may have used for the purposes of birth control. Also, the book’s title feels a bit misleading, as this is not a work about the glamorous and risqué speak-easies that most people associate with Prohibition. Despite this, the book remains an important and informative story about Eastern European Jewish immigrants of the era.

An often engaging and atypical historical biography.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-061-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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