A massive story of impressive research presented in sometimes-erratic fashion.

THE AMERICAN SLAVE COAST

A HISTORY OF THE SLAVE-BREEDING INDUSTRY

A sprawling study of the lucrative slave economy of the South, from importation to breeding.

In 1808, the importation of slaves was banned in the United States for protectionist rather than humanitarian measures, signaling a changeover to a domestic slave trade. This husband-and-wife team of accomplished authors and researchers—Ned (The World that Made New Orleans, 2008), and Constance, aka novelist Constance Ash—see that year as key in the transformation of African-American culture. The authors exhaustively delineate the many layers of this horrific story, and they focus on what the numbers reveal: while about 389,000 kidnapped Africans reached the ports of the United States, mostly before independence, by 1860, the number of enslaved persons had grown to 4 million African-Americans. The scramble for labor spurred a slave-breeding economy—epitomized by the fictionalized “stud-farm plantation” in the wildly popular work Mandingo—in which women were breeders (“each prime field wench produced five to ten marketable children during her lifetime”) and men, the “stock Negro,” where children and parents were separated and frequently resold, and many were trafficked into new territories southward and westward. “Increase” was the message on the plantations, in all senses of the word. In a work of ambitious breadth, the authors first look at the realities of this breeding economy, in which people were money and children were interest. Then they delve into the early evolution of slavery into the Chesapeake and the Lowcountry and study how all the necessary accouterments allowed slavery to prevail, including the running of newspaper ads for sales and runaways, the rise of the Jacksonian “democracy” promising poor whites the possibility of becoming slave owners one day, and specific companies and businesses that profited mightily. This well-documented, occasionally choppy book will be valuable to historians and scholars but may prove daunting for general readers.

A massive story of impressive research presented in sometimes-erratic fashion.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61374-820-6

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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