A pointed, relentless chronicle of a despicable part of past American foreign policy.



Scathing examination of American colonial policy in Puerto Rico, culminating in the violent, brief revolution of 1950 and its brutal suppression.

Filmmaker, former editorial director of El Diario and New York State Assemblyman Denis seethes at the injustices inflicted on the small island protectorate of Puerto Rico since it was seized from Spain during the Spanish-American War of 1898 and relegated to being a base for President Theodore Roosevelt’s “big stick” policy in the Caribbean. According to the prevalent racial policy of the time, Puerto Ricans were considered too ignorant and uncivilized for self-rule. Massive sugar cane–grinding mills run by American corporations would soon dot the tropical landscape, and the impoverished inhabitants were enlisted in the backbreaking labor of cutting and processing the cane for pennies a day. In 1922, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the island a territory, not a state, and thus the U.S. Constitution did not apply, denying the workers any fair labor policies enjoyed by U.S. citizens. A Nationalist Party was formed at the same time, closely followed and infiltrated by the FBI, according to documents the author secured. The Ponce massacre of March 1937—when the police opened fire on unarmed cadets marching through the town square, killing 19 and wounding over 200 people—galvanized unrest and rebellion. In telling this gruesome and little-recorded history, Denis concentrates on the personalities involved: the corrupt governor Luis Muñoz Marín; the Harvard-educated Nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos; the documentarian of the Nationalist cause, Juan Emilio Viguié; and the humble barber Vidal Santiago Díaz, whose Salón Boricua became the fulcrum of dissent and political organization. The 1950 rebellion concluded horrifically in violent death or imprisonment at San Juan’s notorious La Princesa prison. Denis produces compelling evidence of U.S. government–sponsored radiation and other medical experiments inflicted on prisoners.

A pointed, relentless chronicle of a despicable part of past American foreign policy.

Pub Date: April 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56858-501-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Nation Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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...


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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