A solid continuation, but subsequent volumes are sure to provide even more provocative material.

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THE ARAB OF THE FUTURE 2

A CHILDHOOD IN THE MIDDLE EAST, 1984-1985: A GRAPHIC MEMOIR

The second volume of the author’s graphic memoir presents a portrait of the Franco-Syrian artist as a young boy.

This would seem to be a transitional chapter, following the highly acclaimed debut, The Arab of the Future (2015), which presented most of the themes continued here. The young Riad, now a schoolboy in Syria, remains torn between his experiences in his mother’s native France and his Muslim father’s return with his family to his homeland. His father retains a somewhat prestigious position as a university professor but feels he should do better (and readers of the first volume know he could have). With his white-blond hair distinguishing him from his schoolmates, Riad is mocked as a “Jew” and finds himself playing “war against Israel” in order to fit in. “I always tried to be as aggressive as possible toward the Jews to prove I wasn’t one,” he says of these pretend wars. His teachers cross the line from discipline to sadism and seem most concerned with instilling a blind devotion in the Muslim children (to earthly rulers as well as Allah). He receives mixed messages about the impurity and inferiority of women (“they’re more fragile, weaker. Satan enters them more easily”) and the need for them to wear a veil, though no one seems to notice that his mother doesn’t. And he sees the life of the very rich and very poor, though he finds it hard to tell exactly where his family fits given his father’s ambitions and fantasies. A return to France provides some perspective—in the contrast and in the sheer abundance of consumer goods so rare in Syria. Instead of the Jews despised in Syria, his mother’s family hates “the Krauts, the Germans!” Or as they still consider them, “the Nazis!” There’s a lot here for a 6-year-old boy to process, let alone resolve.

A solid continuation, but subsequent volumes are sure to provide even more provocative material.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62779-351-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...

THUNDERSTRUCK

A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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