Still, the tone is academic, limited in appeal to general readers. A shame, considering that Guantánamo Bay is now packed...

CHILDREN AT WAR

The first American soldier to die in Afghanistan fell at the hands of a 14-year-old. So writes Singer (Brookings Institution) in this dry treatment of a compelling subject: the growing use of children as soldiers.

That 14-year-old sniper was one of tens of thousands of child soldiers fighting across the globe today. More than 11,000, Singer estimates, are fighting in Colombia’s ongoing civil war alone; one of four rebels is under the age of 18, “with the youngest recruited being seven years old.” Around the world—but, curiously, with epicenters along the equator in such places such as Myanmar, Sierra Leone and Colombia—these children are employed as cannon fodder. In a spectacularly gruesome example from 1984, Iranian boys were taken from school and, armed with grenades and wearing keys around their necks to unlock the gates of heaven, were sent off against Saddam Hussein’s regular Iraqi army; as many as 100,000 died in the ensuing human-wave assaults. (The Iranian government, Singer writes, rejected the repatriation of young prisoners: “They are not Iranian children,” said the Ayatollah Khomeini. “Ours have gone to Paradise and we shall see them there.”) Some children’s fanatical urges allow them to be recruited, but more, it appears, join the fighting in order to eat. Many, too, join to avenge the deaths of family members, as so often occurred in Bosnia and Kosovo and, more recently, in Afghanistan, where boys are thought not to become men until they slay those who have wronged them. Singer’s material is thorough and sobering, and his analysis of the psychological effects of child soldiering not only on the children but also on the adults—including, now, American soldiers—who kill them in combat has obvious implications for policy planners.

Still, the tone is academic, limited in appeal to general readers. A shame, considering that Guantánamo Bay is now packed with teenagers, on both sides of the wire.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2005

ISBN: 0-375-42349-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2004

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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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