Roach approaches her subject from several angles, providing much that’s entertaining. Unfortunately, though, her...



A redhead—and definitely proud to be one—combines a long personal essay on her own experience and feelings about her red hair with research into the mythology and science of the phenomenon.

Roach, co-author of Dead Reckoning: The New Science of Catching Killers (2001) and a commentator on NPR’s All Things Considered, examines the question of why we think of redheads the way we do—as oversexed wild women with the power to lead men astray. In “Sinners,” she researches the meaning of red hair (in both women and men) in the Judeo-Christian tradition, finding, for example, that Adam’s first wife, the promiscuous she-demon Lilith, is usually depicted as a redhead, as is Judas, and that in morality plays of the Middle Ages, Jews frequently appeared as diabolical characters in red wigs. Among the more famous historical redheads, she reports, are the Celtic warrior (and the author’s personal heroine) Boudicca, Henry VIII, and his daughters Mary I and Elizabeth I. While the lore and history are often fascinating, when Roach, in Part Two, turns to what science has learned about red hair, her focus on herself does little to illuminate the account. Eager to find out more about her own genetic inheritance, she travels to England and Scotland to interview various geneticists about red hair. She describes their work briefly—the gene for red hair is now known to be on chromosome 16—but keeps herself and her hair very much in the foreground. In the last section, called “Sex,” the net she casts is wide, hauling in both Mary Magdalene and Miss Kitty of TV’s Gunsmoke. Depicting a woman as a redhead, it seems, is now a convenient shorthand way of saying that she’s someone to be reckoned with.

Roach approaches her subject from several angles, providing much that’s entertaining. Unfortunately, though, her near-obsession with her own identity as a redhead becomes annoying.

Pub Date: July 7, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-344-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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