Powerful portrait of a publisher who became the voice of Middle America during the nation’s deepest crisis.

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HORACE GREELEY

CHAMPION OF AMERICAN FREEDOM

A comprehensive biography of Greeley (1811–72), deftly analyzing the price he paid to brook no intrusion, partisan or otherwise, on his principles.

Fresh from apprenticing as a typesetter in small printing shops in New England and upstate New York, the 23-year-old Greeley arrived in New York City to found the weekly opinion journal, the New Yorker, in 1834. Seven years later, he started a newspaper, the Herald Tribune. By hiring savvy reporters and columnists like Samuel Clemens (even Karl Marx was a foreign contributor) Greeley built the Trib into perhaps the world’s most widely read daily, and the most trusted in America at the time of the Civil War. He beat the drum for an expansionist—“go West”—America based on freedom and equal opportunity for all; free, that is, from the institution of slavery Greeley had come to abhor. To maintain integrity by his own standard, Williams stresses, Greeley not only had to turn against the Republican Party he helped found, but also to criticize the president he had anointed. (Lincoln himself, however, never wavered in his regard for Greeley, once a fellow Congressman who, when appointed to fill an open seat, dared call Honest Abe to account for padding his travel expenses.) Even after he had “committed political suicide,” Williams notes, by funding a bail bond for former Confederate president Jefferson Davis, Greeley entered the 1872 campaign opposing U.S. Grant as the presidential candidate of the reformist Liberal Republican party and, without seeking it, also won the Democrats’ nomination. His former Republican cohorts promptly moved to discredit him with vicious attacks tying him to everything from the Ku Klux Klan to New York’s ultra-corrupt Boss Tweed administration. The experience, the author reckons, likely hastened his death.

Powerful portrait of a publisher who became the voice of Middle America during the nation’s deepest crisis.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-8147-9402-5

Page Count: 424

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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