PANTHER

Filmmaker, composer, and financial analyst Van Peebles (Bold Money, 1986) relies more on movie-like fantasy than accuracy for his first novel—a historical fiction about the Black Panthers' early years: soon to be released as a movie by the author's son, Mario. This is truly the Hollywood version of Panther history- -characters are reduced to good guys and bad guys, their struggles into the stuff of action-adventure flicks; the imaginary, incendiary ending comes right from the brutish heroics of Bruce Willis or Eddie Murphy. In Van Peebles's fictional version, the Panthers began in Oakland as an earnest group of local activists protesting government indifference and police brutality. In a moment of lightbulb clarity, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale decide to arm themselves legally and confront the police wherever possible. It's the duo's macho willingness to face down the Man that purportedly wins them followers, from writer and ex-con Eldridge Cleaver to Judge, the Vietnam vet and Berkeley student whose radicalization is at the core of the novel. Overcoming his mother's fears, his own desire to make it in honkie society, and the local preacher's nonviolent strategies, Judge joins the ranks after he suspects the cops have killed his best friend. Because of his collegiate demeanor, he's soon enlisted to become a double agent by Huey himself, who knows the FBI has informers everywhere. When things collapse—when Newton and Seale are both in jail, and when Cleaver goes underground—the FBI and the Mob are free to begin their conspiracy to silence the ghetto by flooding the black neighborhoods with drugs. All the sleazy sides to Panther history- -their thuggery, their internal violence, the gangster end of Newton—are either ignored or explained as reflexive responses to police oppression. A less-than-candid narrative, with fatuous dialogue and hokey dramatics, manages to turn an important and complex story into Hollywood schlock. (First printing of 50,000; film rights to Gramercy Pictures)

Pub Date: July 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-56025-096-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1995

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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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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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