The turbulent, even toxic political atmosphere of Washington is contrasted with the deep humanity and political wisdom of Abraham Lincoln in these revealing reports of a Civil War journalist. Noah Brooks (1830—1903), a native New Yorker who first met Lincoln in the 1850s while the two lived in Illinois, began reporting on Washington for the Sacramento Daily Union in 1862. His Washington in Lincoln’s Time (1895) is considered a classic memoir of the era, but until now his earlier writings about Lincoln—dispatches, letters, and personal reminiscences—had not been collected. Brooks’s open admiration for the president (—A nobler and purer nature than his never animated man—) may astonish readers used to contemporary journalists— aspirations toward objectivity. But Brooks’s closeness to Lincoln (who offered him a position as private secretary just before his murder) also enabled the journalist to write with certainty of the president’s views, even to the point of having Lincoln approve quotes. The resulting portrait is striking: Lincoln as a stump speaker who overcomes a homely first impression with piercing logic and sharp humor; a president reacting with rage over losses by timorous generals; a politician grown visibly careworn by shameless office seekers, importuning citizens, and the need to stay in an unprecedentedly bloody war. Besides the vivacity of his character sketches of Lincoln, Brooks’s work was also remarkably versatile, including what would now be seen as —inside-the-Beltway— accounts of California politicians in the capital, reports on the Democratic National Convention and Congress in session, and colorful vignettes of citizens besieging Lincoln at inaugural levees, rejoicing in the fall of Richmond, and mourning the fallen president. Burlingame (History/Connecticut Coll.; The Inner World of Abraham Lincoln, not reviewed) ably and unobtrusively clarifies references to people and events well known to Brooks’s contemporaries but not a century later. Not the least bit dispassionate, but highly evocative eyewitness history.

Pub Date: July 2, 1998

ISBN: 0-8018-5842-9

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Johns Hopkins Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1998

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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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