Intelligent, convincing and depressing, despite the author’s evident zest for teaching.

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IN THE BASEMENT OF THE IVORY TOWER

CONFESSIONS OF AN ACCIDENTAL ACADEMIC

Expanding on his controversial Atlantic Monthly essay, “Professor X” assails the ill-considered optimism that encourages unprepared students to assume crippling debt to get college degrees they don’t really need.

The author is an adjunct English instructor—tenure, no insurance, no benefits and no status—who teaches basic college courses on a part-time basis. This is in addition to his regular civil-service job, which no longer covered his expenses once he and his wife “marked the turn of the millennium by buying a home that we really couldn’t afford.” Indeed, perhaps the most unsettling thing about this disturbing screed is the parallel that Professor X draws between the housing boom that provoked the 2008 financial crisis and the recent boom in college enrollment, which promises people who barely made it through high school that a college degree will improve their employment prospects. “There are no guarantees,” he writes. “Markets tumble, houses enter foreclosure, students fail.” The author makes it painfully clear that many of his students deserve to fail. They cannot construct a basic sentence, let alone an essay; they have never read a book for pleasure in their lives. Yet they are expected to savor the glories of poetry and to produce coherent, properly organized and cogently argued essays. Contrary to what many of the angry responses to the original Atlantic article suggested, Professor X does not look down on his students or think they’re stupid, but he cannot pretend that they have the background and skills required for the classes he is allegedly teaching. (In fact, he’s doing remedial work.) He questions the necessity of higher education for people who want to be corrections officers or nurses, reserving some of his most scathing words for the “credential inflation” that keeps upping the amount of education demanded of applicants for blue-collar and technical jobs. The author offers no solutions, but makes the profoundly un-American suggestion that not everyone is college material.

Intelligent, convincing and depressing, despite the author’s evident zest for teaching.

Pub Date: April 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-670-02256-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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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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