Doesn’t provide as much depth as more conventional biographies, but Jaffee’s voice and life will hook the reader.

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AL JAFFEE'S MAD LIFE

As journalist Weisman (My Baby Boomer Baby Book: A Record of Milestones, Millstones & Gallstones, 2006, etc.) demonstrates, the life story of veteran MAD cartoonist is stranger than anything he has ever drawn for the magazine.

Though Al Jaffee (b. 1921) has been associated with MAD longer than anyone in the magazine’s history, few familiar with his work know the stories that underlie his barbed sense of humor. “A résumé of Al’s formative years,” writes the author, “reads like a comic strip of traumatic cliff-hangers, with cartoons by Jaffee and captions by Freud.” Or maybe by Kafka, for this account—of how the six-year-old boy was taken back to Lithuania by his immigrant mother, and then shuttled back and forth between a European homeland still steeped in the 19th century and an America where he ultimately felt like an outsider—is a whiplash series of transitions for the reader, let alone for the young boy who had to navigate them. Jaffee’s own voice dominates—even more than it might in an “as told to” autobiography—and the culture shock he details, down to the stench of the outhouse, amid a surge of anti-Semitism and the advent of Hitler, goes a long way toward explaining the distrust he has held for the world of adults and the revenge his defiantly adolescent humor takes upon them. With a few dozen illustrations by the 89-year-old cartoonist, who remains best known for the MAD “fold-ins” he has drawn for decades, the biography initially reads like an extended, single-source interview profile—it had its genesis as a magazine feature—yet belatedly broadens to include other perspectives once it progresses to his improbable career at the magazine.

Doesn’t provide as much depth as more conventional biographies, but Jaffee’s voice and life will hook the reader.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-186448-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: It Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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