SONG OF RITA JOE

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A MI'KMAQ POET

The too-modest yet moving life story of a Canadian Indian writer, a member of the Mi'kmaq tribe. The youngest of seven children, Joe was born in 1932 on Cape Breton, in eastern Canada. Her parents were poor but happy; ``everybody was soft-spoken and gentle,'' she writes, ``even though we had such a sad lot.'' Joe does not say much about her home life, apart from quietly recalling that her grandmother blamed her for her mother's death, when the author was five, on account of Joe's difficult delivery. She touches only in passing on the foster homes she subsequently lived in (though she does note that a man in one of them sexually abused her). Nor do we learn much about the Indian Residential School she attended for four years; such schools proved traumatic experiences for generations of Indians. Indeed, Joe's memoir is shot through with a curious reticence, and it is clear that the author is not entirely comfortable with telling us about her experiences, good or bad. She admits, but with considerable reserve, to having been a battered wife for many years of her long marriage; as her husband drank more and more, she writes, ``the beatings he gave me became a more frequent part of my life.'' (Those beatings stopped when a Mi'kmaq elder shamed Joe's husband- -whom the author recalls with nothing but love and forgiveness— into quitting his abuse.) Joe is more forthcoming about her almost accidental success as a writer: She began to write in her late 30s, after bearing nine children, contributing humorous columns to a Mi'kmaq-language newspaper, and has since produced several books of verse that are well known in Canada. ``You cry too much,'' an Anglo editor once complained of Joe's writing. One wishes that she had cried a little more in this spare memoir, in which so much goes unspoken. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-8032-7594-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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