A popular history of the ship whose sinking propelled the US into the Spanish-American War—and into a new, uncomfortable role as an overseas empire. The Spanish-American War is usually recalled as an unexpectedly short and resounding conflict, brought on by atrocity stories about a demonic enemy—not unlike the Persian Gulf War. But was it really the ``splendid little war'' hailed by Secretary of State John Hay? Hardly. As chronicled dispassionately here by Blow, former book editor at Reader's Digest (and grandson of one of the Maine's 85 survivors), the conflict was messy and ambiguous for Americans from start to finish: The Maine explosion in February 1898 blamed on a Spanish mine despite lack of conclusive proof; an American army bedeviled by logistical difficulties, stifling heat, and disease; a commodore who almost let the enemy slip away at the battle of Santiago; and, in the wake of the peace settlement, a bloody, three-year insurrection by Filipinos against Americans who had exploited their help in overthrowing the Spanish. Fortunately, Spain responded with ineptitude, and when not dismissing the effectiveness of America's immigrant-filled navy, the Spanish were squandering their chance to break through the American blockade at Santiago. Blow narrates the events surrounding the Maine sinking and the controversial rush to war in the subsequent weeks through a gallery of participants, including Theodore Roosevelt (who asked reluctant hawk and Republican kingmaker Mark Hanna, ``Now, Senator, may we please have war?''), Admiral George Dewey, Winston Churchill, Frederic Remington, Clara Barton, William Randolph Hearst, Stephen Crane, and Richard Harding Davis. Not very incisive in analyzing the war's military significance, but highly colorful in depicting Americans in the blood-roar of nationalism. (B&w photos, maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 1992

ISBN: 0-688-09714-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1992

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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