An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in...

BLOOD AT THE ROOT

A RACIAL CLEANSING IN AMERICA

A history of white supremacy’s endurance in a Georgia county.

In 1977, Phillips (English/Drew Univ.; Elegy for a Broken Machine: Poems, 2015, etc.) moved with his family from Atlanta to a small town in Forsyth County, Georgia, hoping to enjoy the simple pleasures of a quieter life. What the young boy discovered was “a world where nobody liked outsiders,” most especially, and vehemently, blacks. The color line was drawn “between all that was good and cherished and beloved and everything they thought evil, and dirty, and despised.” In an effort to understand the world in which he grew up, the author has uncovered a shocking story as heartbreaking as it is infuriating. Although in the minority, blacks had long co-existed with whites in Forsyth County, some as slaves, many as landowners and small-business owners. But in September 1912, after a white woman was found beaten and raped, virulent racism erupted, resulting in the lynching of one of three black suspects and, in the weeks that followed, the purging of all blacks—more than 1,000—who lived in the county. Night riders fired shots into doors, threw rocks through windows, demolished homes with dynamite, and burned churches. By the end of October, the black population was gone, and any who ever appeared in the county—through temerity or mistake—were violently run off. “Racial purity is Forsyth’s security,” whites proclaimed. Some black landowners managed to sell their property to whites before they left, but most abandoned their homes, knowing that their land would be taken over by whites claiming it for themselves. Throughout the book, Phillips successfully contextualizes Forsyth in American racism’s long history. After Woodrow Wilson was elected on promises of “fair dealing” for blacks, he unapologetically enforced segregation. Decades later, in 1987, when civil rights groups staged a march through Forsyth, they were met with violence—an episode the author recounts with moving intimacy.

An impressive reckoning with a shameful piece of the past that “most natives of Forsyth would prefer to leave…scattered in the state’s dusty archives or safely hidden in plain sight.”

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-29301-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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