A solid if incomplete contribution to a currently hot debate.

NOT IN FRONT OF THE CHILDREN

“INDECENCY,” CENSORSHIP, AND THE INNOCENCE OF YOUTH

A closely argued brief for free speech.

Heins’s case relies on precedent and law, but her arguments take place in a sealed intellectual chamber isolated from the real and messy world. She begins with Plato, who, concerned that exposure to erotic literature would lead the young to immoral behavior, counseled censorship. She then compares him to Aristotle, who argued that viewing violent and graphic scenes provided a necessary catharsis. The tension between these two approaches informs the argument to this day, but now the situation is exacerbated by children’s exposure to the Internet and television. Arguing that it was only in the 17th century that Western society began to show much apparent concern about the moral health of the young, the author attempts to trace the change in attitudes towards adolescent vice (beginning with masturbation, which became a 19th-century obsession). She describes how the classics, including Shakespeare, were bowdlerized; how Andrew Comstock got Congress to pass a seminal obscenity law in 1873; the banning of Joyce’s Ulysses; and the paradoxical move away from censorship in the 1950s (when the Kinsey Report was published and hitherto taboo subjects became more freely discussed). By the 1980s the tension between advocates of free speech and those concerned with protecting youth led to greater calls for censorship, calls that increased in the 1990s with demands for V-chips and filters. Heins argues that there are no conclusive studies proving that access to sexual and violent material is harmful, but she fails to address the understandable concerns of contemporary parents who must raise children in a world where graphic sexual and violent images are readily accessible.

A solid if incomplete contribution to a currently hot debate.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-374-17545-4

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2001

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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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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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