An intriguing but uneven treatment of a subject that has not received much attention in years.




An attempt to explain the hysteria that surrounded the child sex abuse cases that swept the United States in the 1980s.

Beck, associate editor of n+1, argues that the sexual revolution of the 1960s and ’70s triggered a backlash from conservatives in the ’80s, which caused widespread panic about child abuse in the preschools. The McMartin Preschool case in Manhattan Beach, California, one of the longest and most expensive in American history, takes center stage, with individual chapters on allegations, the preliminary hearing, the trial, and the verdict. The author also cites another California case and ones in Michigan, Texas, Florida, and Massachusetts. Through interviews and archival research, Beck shows how therapists and detectives (the line between them is blurry) induced youngsters to tell wild, even fantastic, tales of sexual abuse, sometimes involving bloody Satanic rituals, by their caretakers. The title comes from posters carried by parents in Manhattan Beach incensed that their children’s incredible stories, not backed by actual evidence, aroused skepticism in some quarters. Beck also shows the role of the media and of overeager prosecutors and mental health professionals in creating a situation that destroyed the lives of innocent people, many of whom spent years in jail. Comparisons with the Salem witch trials are inevitable, but the author points out a difference: the victims of that one later received apologies. Beck sees the day care trials as a warning from conservatives to career-minded mothers who chose to pursue lives outside the home and entrust their children to others. He looks to the source of the hysteria in people’s fears about the social changes taking place in American society. Unfortunately, the author devotes much more of his text to a rehash of the McMartin case and less to exploring theory about the causes of the hysteria surrounding child sexual abuse.

An intriguing but uneven treatment of a subject that has not received much attention in years.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61039-287-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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...


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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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