I AM THE MOST INTERESTING BOOK OF ALL

VOL. I, THE DIARY OF MARIE BASHKIRTSEFF

This is the first volume of a marvelously detailed diary kept by Bashkirtseff, an enterprising young woman entering the opulent adult world of Europe during the late 1800s with style and promise, but kicking all the way. Bashkirtseff narrates the splendors of Europe's favorite watering holes (Baden, Nice, Naples) and cultural seasons (Vienna, Geneva, London, and Rome) through the eyes of an adolescent at odds with the constraints of a male-dominated society. By the age of 12, Marie knew that ``she was born to be a remarkable woman.'' Troubled by a burning desire for grandeur and the humiliation brought upon her by her family's negligent financial position in society, she navigates through hostility and longing, leaving over just enough joie to appreciate a beautiful dress, a well-positioned box at the opera, and the carefully choreographed glances of men. As she ventures into the world of masked balls, operettas, and strolls along the promenade, she turns heads all along the way. Her protestations that only ``men are made to live in society'' ring hollow, considering her own sense of omnipotence: ``I am everything. At shooting I am a man . . . in the water a fish . . . at a party a charming woman. . . . In my bedroom I am Venus.'' She knows she wants to be the seeker more than the one who is found in any game of hide-and-seek. Perhaps this is the most profound expression of her frustration at the male-dominated world she describes. Marie was gifted with a precociously modern, novelistic temperament that found no echo at the ball. She confesses with detachment that her ``love story is always the same; it always ends with a paroxysm of tears on a hotel rug.'' In later volumes, she takes up politics and the bohemian life. Here, she plays the arrogant adolescent in a world gone by. Do stay tuned; this feisty young life will take flight.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-8118-0224-8

Page Count: 435

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1997

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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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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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