As historical fiction, this offering is fine, but it is not nonfiction by any stretch of the imagination.

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SOMEWHERE THERE IS STILL A SUN

A MEMOIR OF THE HOLOCAUST

Holocaust survivor Gruenbaum has a story to tell.

From prewar childhood in Prague to Terezin (and participation in its infamous performances of Brundibar) and liberation by the Red Army, a first-person narration relates Gruenbaum’s story; although his father perished, remarkably, he, his mother, and his sister survived together. In an introduction, Gruenbaum describes his story’s path to publication some 70 years after the end of the war. After many rejections of his original, picture-book manuscript, his story was picked up with the suggestion that his experiences be retold by a professional writer in a much longer book. What follows is Hasak-Lowy’s re-creation of Gruenbaum’s experiences, told in a childlike first person and featuring novelistic flourishes such as extensive, “recreated” dialogue. In a lengthy afterword, Hasak-Lowy describes his process, which included a trip to Prague and Terezin and consultation with Gruenbaum. In writing, he "elaborate[ed] on the fragments of [Gruenbaum’s] memories" by "fill[ing] in gaps on a very regular basis," and "suppl[ied] large parts" of the personalities and actions of the characters "in order to bring the scenes with them to life." Gruenbaum is “very pleased with the results,” but moving though it is, the book simply does not meet the definition of nonfiction, which the label “memoir” implies.

As historical fiction, this offering is fine, but it is not nonfiction by any stretch of the imagination. (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-8486-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF SLAVERY

Sandwiched between telling lines from the epic of Gilgamesh (“…the warrior’s daughter, the young man’s bride, / he uses her, no one dares to oppose him”) and the exposure of a migrant worker–trafficking ring in Florida in the mid-1990s, this survey methodically presents both a history of the slave trade and what involuntary servitude was and is like in a broad range of times and climes. Though occasionally guilty of overgeneralizing, the authors weave their narrative around contemporary accounts and documented incidents, supplemented by period images or photos and frequent sidebar essays. Also, though their accounts of slavery in North America and the abolition movement in Britain are more detailed than the other chapters, the practice’s past and present in Africa, Asia and the Pacific—including the modern “recruitment” of child soldiers and conditions in the Chinese laogai (forced labor camps)—do come in for broad overviews. For timeliness, international focus and, particularly, accuracy, this leaves Richard Watkins’ Slavery: Bondage Throughout History (2001) in the dust as a first look at a terrible topic. (timeline, index; notes and sources on an associated website) (Nonfiction. 11-14)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-88776-914-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy.

BONNIE AND CLYDE

THE MAKING OF A LEGEND

A portrait of two victims of the Great Depression whose taste for guns and fast cars led to short careers in crime but longer ones as legends.

Blumenthal (Hillary Rodham Clinton, 2016, etc.) makes a determined effort to untangle a mare’s nest of conflicting eyewitness accounts, purple journalism, inaccurate police reports, and self-serving statements from relatives and cohorts of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Though the results sometimes read as dry recitations of names and indistinguishable small towns, she makes perceptive guesses about what drove them and why they have become iconic figures, along with retracing their early lives, two-year crime spree, and subsequent transformations into doomed pop-culture antiheroes. She does not romanticize the duo—giving many of their murder victims faces through individual profiles, for instance, and describing wounds in grisly detail—but does convincingly argue that their crimes and characters (particularly Bonnie’s) were occasionally exaggerated. Blumenthal also wrenchingly portrays the desperation that their displaced, impoverished families must have felt while pointedly showing how an overtaxed, brutal legal system can turn petty offenders into violent ones. A full version of Bonnie’s homespun ballad “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” and notes on the subsequent lives of significant relatives, accomplices, and lawmen join meaty lists of sources and interviews at the end.

Painstaking, judicious, and by no means exculpatory but with hints of sympathy. (photos, timeline, author’s note, source notes, bibliography, index) (Biography. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47122-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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