An energetic and intimate popular history of a fraught land.



A personal, unconventional defense of the state of Israel.

In her first book, Israeli actor, producer, and singer Tishby provides a straightforward yet opinionated look at modern Israel that’s meant to rebut common criticisms and debunk common stereotypes. As a secular, liberal Israeli working in the entertainment industry, she has often found herself in the role of apologist for her homeland. This book is an outgrowth of those experiences, an attempt to educate her peers about Israel. Tishby begins with ancient history. “Israel sits on so much freaking history and archeology it’s unfathomable,” she writes in a characteristically conversational tone, continuing, “when you dig in Jerusalem…you just dig wherever you can, and you’re bound to find something old and priceless buried underground.” The author then moves on to the colonial-era Middle East and early Zionism, leading up to the horrors of World War II and the establishment of the Israeli state in 1948. Tishby discusses the conflicts that have plagued Israel since its founding, especially regarding the Israeli-Palestinian divide. Declaring herself both Zionist and pro-Palestinian, the author argues that the conflict is exacerbated by other Arab nations and poor Palestinian leadership. “The conflict,” she notes, “is not between the Palestinians and the Israelis. It’s between the entire Arab world and Israel.” Finally, Tishby describes the people and culture of Israel, pointing out the many ways Israel has contributed to the global community and what it has to offer to the Middle East going forward. Pointing fingers at the U.N. as well as the anti-Zionism movement and the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions initiative, Tishby encourages her fellow liberals to be educated and fair about their views of Israel. Drawing heavily on her personal experiences as well as on expansive research, the author provides an accessible defense of her people. Scholars will find plenty to debate, but the author’s candid viewpoint offers good food for thought.

An energetic and intimate popular history of a fraught land.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982144-93-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.


An epistolary memoir of Nelson Mandela’s prison years.

From August 1962 to February 1990, Mandela (1918-2013) was imprisoned by the apartheid state of South Africa. During his more than 27 years in prison, the bulk of which he served on the notorious Robben Island prison off the shores of Cape Town, he wrote thousands of letters to family and friends, lawyers and fellow African National Congress members, prison officials, and members of the government. Heavily censored for both content and length, letters from Robben Island and South Africa’s other political prisons did not always reach their intended targets; when they did, the censorship could make them virtually unintelligible. To assemble this vitally important collection, Venter (A Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrada's Notebook from Robben Island, 2006, etc.), a longtime Johannesburg-based editor and journalist, pored through these letters in various public and private archives across South Africa and beyond as well as Mandela’s own notebooks, in which he transcribed versions of these letters. The result is a necessary, intimate portrait of the great leader. The man who emerges is warm and intelligent and a savvy, persuasive, and strategic thinker. During his life, Mandela was a loving husband and father, a devotee of the ANC’s struggle, and capable of interacting with prominent statesmen and the ANC’s rank and file. He was not above flattery or hard-nosed steeliness toward his captors as suited his needs, and he was always yearning for freedom, not only—or even primarily—for himself, but rather for his people, a goal that is the constant theme of this collection and was the consuming vision of his entire time as a prisoner. Venter adds tremendous value with his annotations and introductions to the work as a whole and to the book’s various sections.

A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-117-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.


A meditation on Austria’s capitulation to the Nazis. The book won the 2017 Prix Goncourt.

Vuillard (Sorrow of the Earth: Buffalo Bill, Sitting Bull and the Tragedy of Show Business, 2017, etc.) is also a filmmaker, and these episodic vignettes have a cinematic quality to them. “The play is about to begin,” he writes on the first page, “but the curtain won’t rise….Even though the twentieth of February 1933 was not just any other day, most people spent the morning grinding away, immersed in the great, decent fallacy of work, with its small gestures that enfold a silent, conventional truth and reduce the entire epic of our lives to a diligent pantomime.” Having established his command of tone, the author proceeds through devastating character portraits of Hitler and Goebbels, who seduced and bullied their appeasers into believing that short-term accommodations would pay long-term dividends. The cold calculations of Austria’s captains of industries and the pathetic negotiations of leaders who knew that their protestations were mainly for show suggest the complicated complicity of a country where young women screamed for Hitler as if he were a teen idol. “The bride was willing; this was no rape, as some have claimed, but a proper wedding,” writes Vuillard. Yet the consummation was by no means as smoothly triumphant as the Nazi newsreels have depicted. The army’s entry into Austria was less a blitzkrieg than a mechanical breakdown, one that found Hitler stalled behind the tanks that refused to move as those prepared to hail his emergence wondered what had happened. “For it wasn’t only a few isolated tanks that had broken down,” writes the author, “not just the occasional armored truck—no, it was the vast majority of the great German army, and the road was now entirely blocked. It was like a slapstick comedy!” In the aftermath, some of those most responsible for Austria’s fall faced death by hanging, but at least one received an American professorship.

In this meticulously detailed and evocative book, history comes alive, and it isn’t pretty.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-59051-969-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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