A comprehensive and moving portrait of a resurrected American icon.



A biography explores the life and work of the poet Phillis Wheatley.

Too long ignored by scholars of American poetry, Wheatley’s oeuvre is finally regarded as an indispensable part of the national heritage. It provides a glimpse into the birth of African- American literature, American women’s literature, and America itself. Using Wheatley’s poetry and other primary sources from the 18th century—including some that have only recently been rediscovered—Kigel argues for the exceptional place Wheatley inhabits in American letters. Arriving in Boston as a slave—“She could not have been more than seven years old”—in 1761, she was purchased by the wealthy Wheatley family and named Phillis after the ship that brought her across the middle passage. After receiving an unprecedented education by the Wheatleys’ daughter, Mary, Phillis started writing poetry, publishing her first book at 20 and thereby becoming a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Celebrating George Washington and the Revolutionary cause in her verses, Wheatley was, as Kigel argues, the de facto poet laureate of the war, serving as both a champion and the embodiment of the humanistic values that would become the basis of the American identity. With a foreword in verse by Nikki Giovanni, the book deftly blends poetry, biography, and criticism to argue for Wheatley’s pre-eminence in the American literary pantheon. Kigel (Becoming Abraham Lincoln, 2017, etc.) writes in a literary prose that summons the drama of Wheatley’s life in novelistic detail: “Like the others, she had been taken from home and family, crammed into a pit of unimaginable squalor, and left to languish there, sickened by the stench of disease and death, lonely, terrified, and utterly deprived of any human comfort.” While his treatment of his subject often borders on the hagiographic, Wheatley is one of those figures whose stories are so utterly unlikely that it is difficult not to write of them with reverence. Thoroughly researched and delightfully readable, the stirring book makes a fine addition to the growing library of Wheatley studies.

A comprehensive and moving portrait of a resurrected American icon.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Paragon House

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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