A profoundly moving and relevant work that provides new ways of thinking about the “discovery of America.”

SILVER, SWORD & STONE

THREE CRUCIBLES IN THE LATIN AMERICAN STORY

The Peruvian-born author delves into the tripartite crux of Latin American exploitation by the Western powers.

Arana (Bolívar: American Liberator, 2013, etc.) skillfully moves between the past and the present in this story about age-old “metal hunger” and authoritarian strongmen. She begins with a poignant contemporary description of Leonor Gonzáles, a woman miner aged beyond her 47 years, a mother and grandmother living and toiling in the “highest human habitation in the world,” La Rinconada, in the Peruvian Andes, hunting for the illegal gold that Western mining companies need to keep economies buoyant. This lust for precious metals is a story that has haunted and corrupted this continent for centuries. Arana traces the histories of the first civilizations in Bolivia, Peru, and Mexico that used the metals for religious worship, long before the rumors of their "value" became known to European powers. The early Inca, Maya, and Aztec rulers were enlightened, yet they had begun to fight among themselves; Arana notes that it wasn’t until the 15th century that metal was used for killing—previously, it was the obsidian bludgeon. Not until the conquistadors landed on Latin American shores did the native peoples learn the murderous power of these shiny metals. The first meeting between Hernán Cortés and Montezuma, in 1519, marked the first fateful connection, and everything changed swiftly, according to the ancient prophesy—slaughter, plague, destruction. The numbers are telling: By 1618, Mexico’s Indigenous population of about 25 million people had plunged to less than 2 million. Added to this has been the depressingly enduring legacy of autocratic rulers, and Arana pointedly explores the ways that generational trauma has been passed down to this day in a heritable form of PTSD and constant worry. “A sudden revolt, a foreign intervention, a pigheaded despot, a violent earthquake might bring down the house of cards,” she writes, closing her impressively concise yet comprehensive history.

A profoundly moving and relevant work that provides new ways of thinking about the “discovery of America.”

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-0424-4

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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