The fluid writing is enlivened by oral histories, chapter notes, and striking photos. Essential reading for all who want to...

READ REVIEW

BORN IN BONDAGE

GROWING UP ENSLAVED IN THE ANTEBELLUM SOUTH

A significant study of the hardships of raising children in antebellum slavery.

Schwartz (History/Univ. of Rhode Island) opens by surveying the previous scholarship in the field. Past studies rarely treated the issues of slave children and their psycho-social traumas—and the earliest studies even apologized for the relatively benevolent, if condescending, Southern plantation owners. Caribbean slaves had more arduous field work and were given less time off for childbearing and -raising, but Schwartz is less interested in physical conditions and pays little attention to statistical data (such as estimations of the age at which slave mothers and children were put into the fields). Her focus is inside the shacks, families, hearts, and minds of bonded parents and children. Most born slaves did have two parents, and Schwartz wants to know how much parents could counteract the prevailing slave culture. She sees that this challenge was formidable, as paternalistic owners ruled over parents in more insidious ways than the merely economic. At their very births, masters would hover at slaves’ bedsides like anxious, proud racehorse owners. The slaveholders’ meddling co-opted parental authority, denied their ability to provide necessities, and subdued their attempts to provide alternative cultural and social identities. Parents “hoped the arrival of children would encourage owners to recognize the authenticity of slaves’ personal relationships . . . [which] fostered the child’s loyalty to family and community.” So, despite the natural parental desire to foster independence in their children, they inhibited these feelings to dissuade owners from selling children and breaking up their families. Caught in a dilemma, most mothers opted for the survival of their families. Schwartz feels that slaveholders involved themselves in the lives of slave children, from cradle to marriage, largely to earn their loyalty and justify their horrific institution.

The fluid writing is enlivened by oral histories, chapter notes, and striking photos. Essential reading for all who want to understand the complex and long-lasting forces pulling at America’s antebellum slaves. (17 b&w photos)

Pub Date: June 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00162-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more