A coolly told story of a harrowing time and a young woman’s struggle to survive.

UNDERGROUND IN BERLIN

A YOUNG WOMAN'S EXTRAORDINARY TALE OF SURVIVAL IN THE HEART OF NAZI GERMANY

Simon’s son gave her a tape recorder, and the result is a crisp, detailed memoir of her years as a U-Boat (“those who had gone underground in the Nazi period”) in World War II–era Berlin.

A Berlin-born, comfortably raised Jew, the author at first tried to cooperate, working as forced labor at Siemens. However, she well understood that for a Jew in Germany, there was no future. Her stories of sabotage of the nuts and bolts they built for Siemens show a people strong and clever enough to fool their captors. From the beginning, Simon relied on the help of Dr. Benno Heller, a gynecologist who connected her with those who would hide her. (Heller was imprisoned in Berlin, deported to Auschwitz, and ended up in Lieberose-Jamlitz, where he was last seen in early 1945.) The author’s story of sitting quietly in a wicker chair so as not to alert neighbors to her presence was not a one-time thing but rather a constant as she hid in attics and half rooms. A large part of her story is hunger. Nearly everyone in Berlin was hungry, and Simon stayed with people who couldn’t, or wouldn’t, give her food. Her story is emotional, but her narrative is not. She discusses rapes, whether by a “protector” or Russian liberator, almost as asides or inevitabilities. One small ray of hope was her attempt to immigrate to Bulgaria with false papers to marry, though she eventually ran into the ubiquitous Nazi bureaucracy. She did have luck, especially with the Koch family, who supplied her with food and support throughout, and during a two-year respite in 1943, when she stayed with a woman named Luise Blasé. The book also includes a helpful “Index of Names.”

A coolly told story of a harrowing time and a young woman’s struggle to survive.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-38209-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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