An ex-grunt's probing, painful account of coming of age in the hellfire of Vietnam. When he was drafted in 1968, Russell was more boy than man, and a fatherless boy to boot—his dad had killed himself years before. How the author amended the ``incompleteness of being that comes from growing up in a fatherless home'' is, though rarely stated, the theme of this brutal yet considered account, which spans his weeks in basic training through his year in Vietnam and his return home. The heart of Russell's story lies in his experiences with ``Suicide Charlie,'' a front-line unit that gained its nickname from its steady decimation by enemy fire. Russell writes of his trials in two ways: straight reportage that stares down suffering with cool, precise prose (``Cooked bodies do strange things. Rip open, split at the seams, detach at the joints'') and, interspersed throughout, more impressionistic, italicized passages that sometimes veer into purple (``Overhead, the surface of Mole City [an outpost of trenches dug deep in-country] is alive with devils. Flashes of light dance along...creating ghostly images that flail as if in the throes of death, or labor''). The narrative climaxes twice: on the terrible night that Mole City is overrun by NVA forces, and on the day that Russell locks eyes with a Vietnamese boy—Vietcong?—and sees their common humanity. From these tests of will and compassion, the author learns to respect his NVA enemies (``the toughest little soldiers that God ever created'') and to realize that his real job isn't to win the war but to survive. Yet when offered a transfer, Russell sticks with Suicide Charlie, recognizing that loyalty is one value that makes life worth living. And so he grows to be a man and, later, to be a father to his own son, Shannon. Among the more memorable of Vietnam reminiscences, at times as piercing as a splinter in the soul.

Pub Date: May 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-275-94521-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1993

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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