A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.

A noted historian tells about her daring career move to become an artist.

At the age of 64, Painter (American History, Emerita, Princeton Univ.; The History of White People, 2010, etc.), president of the prestigious Organization of American Historians, former director of the Association of Black Women Historians, and author of seven books, enrolled as an undergraduate at Mason Gross School of the Arts of Rutgers University. In a candid, captivating memoir, the author recounts her experiences at Rutgers and in a Master of Fine Arts Program at the Rhode Island School of Design, which raised for her salient questions about identity, creativity, ageism, and racism. Some teachers proclaimed that she would never become an Artist because she “lacked an essential component, some ineffable inner quality.” Although as a professor she believed heartily that skills could be learned through seriousness, persistence, discipline, and hard work, she felt her teachers’ condemnation “piercing my student’s psyche,” causing her to question her ability and the quality of her work. Often discouraged, still she defiantly pursued two goals: “to make work that engaged the eye” and to celebrate, in portraits, her “intellectual women friends.” One teacher dismissed her second goal as mere “illustration.” As to the first, she discovered throughout her art education the vagaries of criteria used to assess quality. During her first year at RISD, she felt reduced to a “pathetic, insecure little stump,” unsure whether her teachers and classmates “were critiquing me, old-black-woman-totally-out-of-place, or critiquing my work, which was not good enough.” Painter admits having felt like a misfit in art school, which leads her to reflect about ageism and racism (both rampant in the rarefied art world). Awarded studio residencies, including an artist-scholar residency at Yale, she proved her worth. The author offers perceptive insights about the meaning of art: the difference between thinking like a historian and an artist; the “contented concentration” she feels when making art; and the works of many black artists.

A spirited chronicle of transformation and personal triumph.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-061-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018


If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998


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