A pertinent, you-are-there historical page-turner with a strong moral message.




Gripping re-creation of the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Former Atlanta magazine editor Burns (Rage in the Gate City: The Story of the 1906 Race Riot, 2006, etc.) originally addressed the subject of MLK’s funeral in a 2008 oral history for the magazine. In this brief yet effective narrative, she provides a snapshot of a still-segregated nation poised between uneasy reconciliation and violent chaos. Using terse language and precise, straightforward descriptions—nearly every person who appears is extensively footnoted, a shrewd tactic because it enlivens the obscure and famous alike—she views the crisis and aftermath of King’s death in Memphis through multiple points of view, beginning with the traumatic center of his family and closest associates in Atlanta. Simultaneously, she argues that the white power structure in the city, personified by Mayor Ivan Allen, the police chief and others, behaved with compassion and foresight. Consequently, a fragile coalition managed the funeral and allowed the city to avoid the racial violence then occurring in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere. Burns follows the perspectives of multiple figures through the days following the assassination, from Lyndon Johnson on down. Numerous people poured into the tense city, including Robert Kennedy and celebrities like Harry Belafonte. The author evokes the funeral as a cathartic ritual of controlled chaos, and the documentary style also captures the inevitable fracturing of King’s movement, starting with the controversial Poor People’s Campaign, with which he was deeply involved. Arguably, the King family’s dignity in response to tragedy, and the somber televised spectacle of King’s funeral, helped convince many Americans that full civil rights were past due.

A pertinent, you-are-there historical page-turner with a strong moral message.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-3054-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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