An eye-opening account of those who “played a pivotal role in the revolution’s trajectory.”




Harrowing reporting from the front lines of the civil war in Syria.

As Beirut-based freelance journalist Abouzeid, who has won the George Polk Award, writes in her opening pages, the Syrian government declared her an enemy and a spy fairly early in the popular uprising, forcing her not just to enter the country illegally, but also to focus on the opposition. That the book does not give equivalency, false or otherwise, to the government’s side of the story does not diminish its objectivity or value. The author brings us the stories of people who, though capable of speaking for themselves, are not often heard from and might as well be voiceless insofar as audiences outside the country are concerned. By Abouzeid’s account, all is chaos and ruin: so many people have died in the civil war in Syria that the U.N. long ago gave up trying to count them. The author is a reliable guide to the ethnic and religious intricacies of the struggle; one of the figures she interviews, while no friend of the regime, is an Alawite, like the ruling family, and therefore is reckoned to be one of them. That does not make him a friend of the opposition, not necessarily. Just so, some of the people Abouzeid profiles are members of militias allied with the Islamic State group and al-Qaida; many of the players involved answer in the affirmative to the question, “do you want the Quran to be the constitution in a future state?” Says one thoughtful rebel who figures prominently in the account, “We want an Islamic state, too, but only after we’ve liberated Syria and start liberating Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan can we establish a caliphate.” Readers without familiarity with the many strains of opposition to the Assad regime are likely to emerge from this book a touch less confused—though without much cause for hope, either.

An eye-opening account of those who “played a pivotal role in the revolution’s trajectory.”

Pub Date: March 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-60949-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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