TINA MODOTTI

A LIFE

Here’s a blockbuster romance waiting to be filmed: Beautiful, gifted Italian immigrant turns Soviet spy and is loved by Edward Weston, befriended by Diego Rivera and Frieda Kahlo, and, after her mysterious death, mourned by Pablo Neruda. According to Italian writer and journalist Cacucci, Modotti came to the US from Italy in 1913. She was 17, strikingly attractive, and enigmatically compelling to the poet/painter whom she soon married and followed to Los Angeles. Her voluptuous figure gained her femme fatale Hollywood roles, but she abandoned cinema in favor of an intense affair with photographer Weston, who introduced her to the still camera. Modotti and Weston headed for Mexico City, where Tina involved herself in the postrevolutionary artistic and political ferment. In their circle were artists Rivera, Xavier Guerrero, David Siqueiros, and others who influenced her politics and her work. Increasingly sure-footed in her photographs of street life, she “opened the door to social documentary,” according to the author. Nevertheless, her hard-line Communist stance forced her to flee Mexico for Moscow. Giving up photography, Modotti alternated Politburo duties with political espionage, landing in Spain during the Civil War. Reassigned to the US, she was deported to Mexico, where she backed off from the Communist Party, disillusioned by the Hitler/Stalin pact and the first assassination attempt on Trotsky (then in Mexico). She died in 1943 in a taxi, en route home from a dinner party. Was it suicide or assassination? No sure answer. This biography was published in Italy in 1991 and has been translated somewhat stiffly into English by Duncan . More troubling than the stops and starts of the translation are the intermittent “you-are-there” dialogues—between, for instance, Modotti and a Mexican prosecutor, and Modotti and lover Julio Mello. Who was present to record these conversations? A life of mystery, passion, dedication, and talent that begs, “Tell us more.” (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: March 23, 1999

ISBN: 0-312-20036-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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