Exhaustively researched, engagingly presented, and glowing with intelligence and honesty.

ANCESTOR TROUBLE

A RECKONING AND A RECONCILIATION

The current wave of interest in genealogy, heredity, family history, and responsibility for past injustices crescendos in a comprehensive work combining personal narrative and reporting.

"Ancestor hunger circles the globe” and “spans millennia,” writes blogger, critic, and essayist Newton in her first book. Perhaps her hunger is especially gnawing due to her long-term estrangement from her proudly racist father—and from her holy roller mother for a time, as well. These ruptures seeded a project that grew like a fairy-tale beanstalk, which the author climbs with unflagging energy. She begins with a few burning questions: "Had my mom's father really married thirteen times? Had his father really killed a man with a hay hook?” Then she used Ancestry.com, 23andMe, and many other resources to track down the truth about her family history, which is rife with scoundrels, slave owners, and a 17th-century accused witch. Newton also carefully presents the problems with the accuracy and ethics of these tools. She is particularly interested in intergenerational trauma, epigenetics, and the possibility of inheriting mental illness, and she identifies "patterns across generations that seem nearly supernatural in their virulence." In addition to historical and scientific information, as well as summaries of many relevant books, the author delivers numerous vivid recollections of her childhood and strained family dynamics. “Strangers confided to my mom in parking lots, laughed at her stories in checkout lines, sympathized with her grumbling in waiting rooms,” writes Newton. “She was fun, charming, and, so it seemed to me then, indomitable. And yet she’d chosen to tie herself to someone like my dad, who has never to my knowledge charmed anyone.” In a rather surprising chapter, the author describes her experiences contacting dead ancestors at an "ancestral lineage healing intensive” and details her ginger approach to cross-cultural practices of ancestor reverence, always conscious of "all the pain I knew my ancestors had caused, outside and inside our family."

Exhaustively researched, engagingly presented, and glowing with intelligence and honesty.

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9792-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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