The recent multitude of memoirists should take a page from Fox: Less really can be more.

Traveling in Eastern Europe just after the end of World War II, a young journalist sees destruction, desolation and despair, hears horrible stories, thinks about her own life, has an epiphany.

Fox’s first memoir (Borrowed Finery, 2001) recalled her childhood and youth. Here, in a style most spare, even austere, Fox records her struggles to begin a career and offers her insights about topics ranging from communism to fascism to race. She begins and ends in New York City, where she has spent most of her life, and tells us about the small miracles of the place—chance encounters with Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, an outing with Paul Robeson. Then she offers a snippet about her waitressing days in the Catskills to raise money for her 1946 trip abroad. In England, she works for a bit as a model, then finds employment with a small news service that sends her across the Channel to find post-war stories. In London, she enjoys Olivier in Lear and sees an inebriated Winston Churchill. She is shocked by the state of post-war Paris (“I sensed the tracks of the wolf,” she says). Later, she goes to Prague, then Warsaw during its fierce winter. She hears that when the snow melts, the bodies will begin to emerge. In the Tatra Mountains, she meets desperate children whose parents were murdered by Nazis. In Spain, she sees how fascism affects ordinary people and muses that the term political life “is so abstract until a cane is laid across one’s back.” Back in New York, now a tutor of troubled youth, she invites her charges one night to look through a powerful telescope. Her students are strangely silent afterwards, and Fox realizes how humbling it is to see beyond oneself.

The recent multitude of memoirists should take a page from Fox: Less really can be more.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2005

ISBN: 0-8050-7806-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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