Solid if dutifully written. (2 8-page photo inserts, not seen)




A richly detailed account of the ideas, politics, architecture, engineering, and construction of the controversial war memorial now rising on the Washington Mall.

Mills (American Studies/Sarah Lawrence; The New Killing Fields, 2002, etc.) sheds his leftist skin in this balanced, definitive account of the journey from idea to building in the era of multiple constituencies, multiple governmental agencies, and multiple egos in need of perpetual massage. Like Brokaw, Ambrose, and others who have written about those who won WWII, the author is eager to confer upon them the title of our “greatest generation”; he believes, as well, that the WWII Memorial is a fitting tribute. Mills begins with a glance backward at the laying of the cornerstone for the Bunker Hill Monument in 1825 and then dives right into today’s troubled waters. He credits the late Roger Durbin, a WWII veteran, for animating Ohio Congresswoman Mary Kaptur to begin in 1987 the process of bringing another memorial to the Mall. He tells, as well, about the controversies surrounding the construction of the other principal structures in the area. In 1922, he reminds us, organizers of the dedication ceremony for the Lincoln Memorial saw fit to rope off one area for “colored” members of the audience. Mills’s prose occasionally plods. For some Gertrude Stein–ish reason he almost always refers to the structure by its full name, and sometimes his sentences sink with the weight of the detail (“Insisting that in favoring placement of the World War II Memorial at the Rainbow Pool, it had indeed paid attention to its own Cultural Landscape Report, the National Park Service answered Catherine Slater’s September 5 letter by quoting back the Landscape Report’s published guidelines”). Nonetheless, his work teaches us that all of the monuments, which now seem so permanent and appropriate, were once nothing more than ideas that annoyed myriads of people.

Solid if dutifully written. (2 8-page photo inserts, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-465-04582-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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