A superb, evenhanded account of America’s role in a continuing tragedy.

A WORLD OF TROUBLE

THE WHITE HOUSE AND THE MIDDLE EAST--FROM THE COLD WAR TO THE WAR ON TERROR

A veteran journalist chronicles 60 years of U.S. fecklessness in the Middle East.

The colorful narrative opens in 2004 with CIA Director George Tenet drunk and angry during a post-midnight swim in a Saudi royal family pool, a perfect metaphor for American floundering in the Middle East for the past few decades. Almost nothing that follows dispels this image of the United States, bitter and baffled by the ceaseless problems posed by this region. Tyler (A Great Wall: Six Presidents and China: An Investigatory History, 1999, etc.) uses the frame of the presidency to survey America’s involvement in a place that, because of its oil resources, the ideological challenge of Islamic extremism and America’s ties to Israel, demands the attention of the nation’s “highest political authority.” Since Eisenhower, the White House has grappled with an unrelenting parade of Middle East conflicts: Gamal Nasser’s 1956 seizure of the Suez Canal; the 1967 Six-Day War between Egypt and Israel; the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the 1979 Iranian Revolution and the takeover of Tehran’s American embassy; the 1983 Marine barracks bombing in Beirut, the 1987 Intifada in the Gaza Strip; the eight-year Iran-Iraq war beginning in 1988; the First Gulf War against Saddam Hussein; the second Intifada; and the 2003 still-unresolved American invasion of Iraq. Tyler demonstrates how American presidents’ responses to these and countless lesser eruptions have been shaped by Cold War strategies, War on Terror exigencies, shifting alliances among Arab leaders and a variety of other factors that have consistently frustrated American attempts at peacemaking. Although the has a few kind words for Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush, no president escapes Tyler’s criticism for mostly fumbling attempts to deal—or not deal—with the region that continues to pose the greatest threat to world peace. The heroes here (Anwar Sadat, Yitzhak Rabin) are few, the successes (Camp David Accords) rare, the villains and rogues many. With his reporter’s instinct for telling detail, Tyler offers a history that makes for enlightening, if depressing, reading.

A superb, evenhanded account of America’s role in a continuing tragedy.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-374-29289-8

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2008

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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