But despite his unsuccessful hunt for bigger game, Hemphill provides some marvelous character sketches of Southern poverty...



A glimpse inside a Southern pocket of rural America that time seems to have passed by.

While the rest of the country was consumed three years ago by accounts of the trial of the individuals responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people, author Hemphill (Leaving Birmingham, 1993) began an investigation of what he himself acknowledges may come to be nothing more than a footnote in American history: the burning of a black church in the small Alabama town of Little River by five white youths. At the time, a number of black churches in the South were mysteriously being torched and it is possible that Hemphill may have had his sights set on a much larger story involving the Ku Klux Klan or a broad study of racial tensions in the South in the post–Civil Rights Act era when he first got started. But neither outline can be discerned in this tale. For one thing, relations between blacks and whites in Little River, far from being hostile, are politely cordial if not openly friendly. For another, the convicted youngsters who set the church ablaze were hardly evil but were apparently so stoned on beer and pot that they seem not to have realized that the makeshift structure they were torching was a place of worship. Even the Klansmen, as boorish and malign as they are, have no provable connection to the crime. Hemphill even attempts to rope Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize–winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird (set in a town not far from Little River) into the case. But that proves too much of a stretch by far. Whatever went down in Little River has the markings of an anomaly rather than an abomination.

But despite his unsuccessful hunt for bigger game, Hemphill provides some marvelous character sketches of Southern poverty and culture blended neatly together in black and white.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-85682-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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