A useful study, though less interesting than John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of the Continent (1998).



Broad-ranging history of Africa from the age of the pharaohs to the present, with a solid emphasis on economics.

Former Observer correspondent and longtime Africa expert Meredith (Born in Africa: The Quest for the Origins of Human Life, 2011, etc.) delivers a richly detailed, occasionally plodding examination of a region of the world that, though central to human history, is too often overlooked, except by the economic powers that be—the World Bank estimates that 40 percent of Africa’s wealth is held outside Africa. Concludes Meredith, “Africa thus remains a continent of huge potential, but limited prospects.” People have always moved from place to place across the continent looking for access to its resources, sometimes in small groups, sometimes in vast waves, as when the Bantu-speaking peoples who originally lived in southern Cameroon spread across southern Africa. Yet, by Meredith’s account, once those resources are in hand, they are always unevenly divided; the peasants of ancient Egypt may have had access to the water wheel and an elaborate system of irrigation, but they were also subject to an even more elaborate system of taxation “that kept them as poor as they had always been.” That situation did not improve with the spread of Christianity and Islam, nor with the arrival of the colonial powers and the conversion of a vast part of the continent to a factory for the production of slaves for trans-Atlantic transport. As Meredith writes, by the 1600s, the European powers were looking far inland for slaves and had established great trading ports along Africa’s west coast, “separated from one another by an average of ten miles.” Small wonder that, absent so much human and natural capital, Africa has been immiserated for so long—a condition not improved by the widespread pattern of one-party or one-man rule today.

A useful study, though less interesting than John Reader’s Africa: A Biography of the Continent (1998).

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61039-459-8

Page Count: 704

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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