An exciting historical journey and highly informative look at the Middle East with Israel as the starting point.

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SPIES OF NO COUNTRY

SECRET LIVES AT THE BIRTH OF ISRAEL

A focused espionage tale of the beginning of Israel and the spies who “turned out to be…the embryo of one of the world’s most formidable intelligence services.”

In his latest book, former AP correspondent Friedman (Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War, 2016, etc.), whose reporting has taken him to many parts of the Middle East, writes primarily about Arab Jews from the Islamic world who left their countries because they were persecuted and harassed. Unfortunately, in Israel, they were condescended to, ignored, and pushed to the fringes, believed not to be a real part of Israel. “The Israeli identity is increasingly Middle Eastern,” writes the author, “but the old languages and mannerisms are gone, as the Zionist movement always intended.” Friedman tells the fascinating story of the Arab Section, part of the Palmach, the Jewish underground army before there was a Jewish state. These men were from the Islamic world, thus easing their task to infiltrate it. Friedman focuses on four specific spies, all under the age of 25—Gamliel Cohen (from Damascus), Isaac Shoshan (Aleppa), Havakuk Cohen (Yemen), and Yakuba Cohen (Jerusalem, British Palestine)—who served as the link between the amateurish, small-scale beginning of Zionist intelligence, when Israel was a wish and not yet a fact, and the more professional efforts after 1948. The Palmach had very little money; the spies contrived their own cover stories, and equipment and communications were sketchy at best. At that time, Israel was many things, and the author deftly navigates the complicated identities and the stories beneath the stories. (One of his sources is the only remaining spy, Shoshan. As Friedman readily admits at the beginning of the book, this is not a comprehensive history of the birth of Israel—and it can’t be, since records are few, confusion was the norm, mistakes were made, and many died.

An exciting historical journey and highly informative look at the Middle East with Israel as the starting point.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61620-722-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

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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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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