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Essential to students of Mandela’s political career as well as of modern African history.

A memoir of Mandela’s term as president of newly democratic South Africa.

Catapulting from prison to executive office soon after attaining freedom, Mandela (1918-2013) pledged two things: he would serve only one five-year term, as opposed to the entrenched presidents who preceded him, and he would ensure that all South African citizens were treated equally under the law. After leaving office, he began writing a memoir of his time in office, but he did not complete it. Working with his drafts, South African novelist Langa (The Lost Colours of the Chameleon, 2008, etc.) delivers a book that is less polished (because it’s told in two voices) than it would have been had Mandela finished it himself and that is a touch remote at times: “What Mandela said in the snap debate was in essence a reprise of his earlier speech in the Senate, but it was accompanied by a reminder of the fundamental goals of transition, and stressed that it was imperative that there should be a national effort to achieve those goals.” Nonetheless, it is a critically important document as the principal firsthand record of Mandela’s tumultuous time in office and the often ingenious measures he took to bring about peace. For instance, he had long steeped himself in the history and language of the Afrikaners, the Dutch-descended white settlers of South Africa who were agents of apartheid but not its authors, since the “Colour Bar was a British colonial invention.” Mandela calculated that if the Afrikaners could be persuaded to act as a bloc in support of the new democracy he headed, then “they would form the backbone of its defense.” So it was that he was able to head off a free-state movement and include Afrikaners, as well as other Europeans, in government. Though without the poetry of Mandela’s memoir Long Walk to Freedom (1994), the book contains many such practical lessons in governance.

Essential to students of Mandela’s political career as well as of modern African history.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-374-13471-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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