A hearty, if indifferently written, celebration of women's courage under fire during the Civil War. According to Hall (a Maryland-based Civil War enthusiast), the role of women on both sides of the war may have been much greater than generally recognized. Women's services as nurses have long been acclaimed, but Hall has come across many instances in which women cut their hair, put aside their dresses, and passed themselves off as male soldiers as well. With the distinction between camp and battlefield often blurred, and in the din and confusion of combat, women could slip easily into roles as nurse, ``daughter of the regiment'' (an ornamental leader of parades in camp and all-purpose battlefield assistant), spy, and soldier. These ``half-soldier heroines'' risked detection of their camouflage, separation from male loved ones, ill health, and death in serving their causes. Among the women warriors singled out by Hall are Sarah Emma Edmonds (``Private Franklin Thompson''), who served as an orderly and spy for the North when not nursing solders; Loreta Janeta Valazquez, who fought for the South as ``Lieutenant Harry Buford'' at the first Battle of Bull Run before becoming a spy and gunrunner; and the Irish-born Jennie Hodgers, who, disguised as ``Albert Cashier,'' served three years with the 95th Infantry Regiment—and who kept her secret until it was exposed upon her commitment to an old-age home. Hall has uncovered many useful memoirs, diaries, letters, military records, and newspaper articles confirming the validity of these women's once sharply disputed exploits. Yet, while quoting extensively from original sources, he seldom brings his own style or point of view into play; nor does he adequately analyze the conditions that enabled these women to pass undetected for so long. Intriguing anecdotes of a little-known chapter of the Civil War, undermined by superficial treatment. (B&w photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1993

ISBN: 1-55778-438-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1992

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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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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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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