If the Sontag/feminist fix on photography boosts Milton Meltzer's conscientious investigation of Dorothea Lange's life and work, so much the better: she was an instinctive, articulate photographer (who chose her metier before she clicked a shutter) and a major force in establishing the documentary tradition. As Meltzer lays out the evidence, Lange's penetrating Farm Security Administration pictures of migrants and sharecroppers follow naturally from her penchant for photographing people (not, even outside her commercial studio, "forms in nature"); the "desire to be useful" that, in the Depression, drew her into the streets; and a demanding, dissatisfied nature going back to childhood. "I had that sense very early of what was fine and what was mongrel, what was pure and what was corrupted in things, and in workmanship, and in cool, clean thought about something. I had that. I was aware of that." So she observed in the oral-history interviews that Meltzer astutely uses to project her personality and the character of her work. On the other hand, his log of her professional activities (and running battle with FSA boss Roy Stryker over final control of the image) and personal relations (especially the troubled course of her first marriage) is fuller than anyone but a S. Johnson or H. James warrants; and this lack of selectivity, added to earnest, colorless writing, robs the book of biographical drama. But en route, the San Francisco cultural scene comes alive, we see photography grow as "a tool for investigation," and assignments, exhibits, books mite intelligible, interesting shape. Then, out of the mass of minutiae, Lange will suddenly reappear—to say to visiting photographer Robert Frank, on her deathbed: "I just photographed you."

Pub Date: July 24, 1978

ISBN: 0815606222

Page Count: 426

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1978

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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