A perceptive, richly detailed biography.




The artistic career of Romare Bearden (1911-1988) reflects political, social, and aesthetic transformations.

Spelman College president Campbell (Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America, 1994, etc.) met Bearden in 1973 when she was a graduate student in fine arts at Syracuse University, spurring her interest in his work and leading to her curating her first museum show, Mysteries: Women in the Art of Romare Bearden. Drawing on her interviews with the artist and his first biographer, along with considerable archival and published material, Campbell offers a discerning portrait of Bearden’s long and successful career. Bearden grew up partly in Harlem, with his parents, and partly in Charlotte and Pittsburgh, where he lived with relatives. His mother, an activist, journalist, and New York City school board member, welcomed assorted artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals into her Harlem home, giving her son access to the creative spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. As a college student, he had two passions: baseball and cartoons, which appeared in undergraduate publications and political journals such as Crisis, edited by W.E.B. Du Bois. Bearden’s more serious work as an artist began in the 1930s, a period that Campbell sees as “a cauldron of competing approaches to art” and controversy over how to represent African-American experience. Besides painting, Bearden worked as a case worker, which fueled an awareness of social injustice that emerged in his muckraking cartoons. Like the murals of Diego Rivera, whom he admired, his canvases showed “overtones of labor strife and the burden of poverty, and the strains they put on life.” The advent of modernism challenged Bearden to reassess his commitment to a naturalistic, social realist style; after a formative five-month stay in Paris in 1950, he returned feeling “unmoored from the markers of race and community.” The rise of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, however, caused another transformation, spurring him to reconcile “the multiple inheritances that made up his identity.” A 1971 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art made Bearden a celebrity.

A perceptive, richly detailed biography.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-19-505909-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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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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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...


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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