A fascinating look into an important chapter in cultural history. Braggs should return to the subject in more depth.

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JAZZ DIASPORAS

RACE, MUSIC, AND MIGRATION IN POST-WORLD WAR II PARIS

A study of a key epoch in the transition of jazz from a distinctively American music to an international art form.

Braggs (Africana Studies/Williams Univ.) uses the lives of jazz musicians largely as a way to study race relations in Paris from the 1940s through the 1970s. Sidney Bechet and Kenny Clarke, two major African-American figures, are featured in the first and final chapters. The lesser-known vocalist Inez Cavanaugh also gets a chapter. Such French musicians as clarinetist Claude Luter and pianist René Urtreger receive a fair share of attention, as do critics Hughes Panassié and Charles Delaunay. Farther afield, Braggs looks at James Baldwin, who spent much of his career writing about America from Paris, and French musician/novelist Boris Vian, who assumed a black identity for one of his novels and played jazz trumpet in a Paris club. Jazz lovers who expect new insights into the music are likely to be disappointed. Braggs is mainly interested in the adaptations they made to launch their careers in France, where initially racism appeared to be off the table. Black jazzmen certainly found fewer barriers, either professionally or socially, in France than in America. French critics and audiences considered African-Americans naturally superior to European musicians, at least as far as playing jazz. Bechet, undeniably a master, attained far greater acceptance in France than he ever did in America, and Clarke, one of the founders of bebop, became the first-call drummer for Parisian jazz sessions. Braggs provides interesting perspective on the “jazz wars” of the postwar era, when fans of traditional and modern styles fought it out. There is perhaps too much repetition—e.g., the author mentions at least three times Clarke’s role in getting Miles Davis to record a French film soundtrack. Also, while Braggs draws on a wealth of material, much of it in French, the book is necessarily dependent on secondary and tertiary sources.

A fascinating look into an important chapter in cultural history. Braggs should return to the subject in more depth.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-520-27935-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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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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