A profoundly uplifting—and also a profoundly depressing- -account of the integration of Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1957. Forty years ago, when the US Supreme Court declared that school segregation was unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, Beals was a schoolgirl in Little Rock. She knew that the good school in Little Rock, the one that would prepare her best for college, was Central High, and she wanted to be in the first group of black teenagers to integrate the school. Not everyone in her family or in the black population of the city supported her dream, fearing that such boat-rocking would bring a reign of violence. This memoir, based heavily on Beals's schoolgirl diary and her English-teacher mother's notes, explains how the 15-year-old decided to integrate Central High with eight classmates and what happened as a result of that decision. Beals's narrative is uplifting because she survived the ordeal, went on to college at San Francisco State University and Columbia University, worked as a reporter for NBC, and returned to Little Rock in 1987 to be greeted by then-governor Bill Clinton and a black Central High student-body president. The tale is depressing because unrelenting violence permeates every page, making a reader wonder (not for the first time, sadly) how human beings can harbor so much hatred. The violence jumps out of every paragraph for entire chapters—violence begat by Beals's white classmates, their parents, Little Rock rednecks with no connection to Central High, even the school's teachers. Arkansas governor Orval Faubus tacitly, and sometimes overtly, encouraged the violence. The goal was to drive the nine black students away from Central High before they could graduate. President Eisenhower responded by calling in federal troops to enforce the law, turning Central High into an armed battleground. The sense of immediacy in Beals's well-crafted account makes the events seem like they happened yesterday.

Pub Date: May 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-86638-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1994

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The sub-title of this book is "Reflections on Education with Special Reference to the Teaching of English in the Upper Forms of Schools." But one finds in it little about education, and less about the teaching of English. Nor is this volume a defense of the Christian faith similar to other books from the pen of C. S. Lewis. The three lectures comprising the book are rather rambling talks about life and literature and philosophy. Those who have come to expect from Lewis penetrating satire and a subtle sense of humor, used to buttress a real Christian faith, will be disappointed.

Pub Date: April 8, 1947

ISBN: 1609421477

Page Count: -

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1947

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Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.


Comprehensive, myth-busting examination of the Colorado high-school massacre.

“We remember Columbine as a pair of outcast Goths from the Trench Coat Mafia snapping and tearing through their high school hunting down jocks to settle a long-running feud. Almost none of that happened,” writes Cullen, a Denver-based journalist who has spent the past ten years investigating the 1999 attack. In fact, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold conceived of their act not as a targeted school shooting but as an elaborate three-part act of terrorism. First, propane bombs planted in the cafeteria would erupt during lunchtime, indiscriminately slaughtering hundreds of students. The killers, positioned outside the school’s main entrance, would then mow down fleeing survivors. Finally, after the media and rescue workers had arrived, timed bombs in the killers’ cars would explode, wiping out hundreds more. It was only when the bombs in the cafeteria failed to detonate that the killers entered the high school with sawed-off shotguns blazing. Drawing on a wealth of journals, videotapes, police reports and personal interviews, Cullen sketches multifaceted portraits of the killers and the surviving community. He portrays Harris as a calculating, egocentric psychopath, someone who labeled his journal “The Book of God” and harbored fantasies of exterminating the entire human race. In contrast, Klebold was a suicidal depressive, prone to fits of rage and extreme self-loathing. Together they forged a combustible and unequal alliance, with Harris channeling Klebold’s frustration and anger into his sadistic plans. The unnerving narrative is too often undermined by the author’s distracting tendency to weave the killers’ expressions into his sentences—for example, “The boys were shooting off their pipe bombs by then, and, man, were those things badass.” Cullen is better at depicting the attack’s aftermath. Poignant sections devoted to the survivors probe the myriad ways that individuals cope with grief and struggle to interpret and make sense of tragedy.

Carefully researched and chilling, if somewhat overwritten.

Pub Date: April 6, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-446-54693-5

Page Count: 406

Publisher: Twelve

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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