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AMERICAN PATRIOT

THE LIFE AND WARS OF COLONEL BUD DAY

The record speaks for itself; alienation and politicization lurk between the lines.

A modern warrior’s achievements and heroics culminate in opposition to a U.S. government viewed as breaking trust with military veterans.

Coram (Boyd, 2002, etc.) confesses in the preface to an “unbounded admiration” of Colonel (USAF) George “Bud” Day. His subject goes from a roughshod, undisciplined—even court-martialed—Marine recruit in WWII to the military’s most decorated veteran (his awards include the Medal of Honor) as a result of action as both an Air Force flying officer and POW in Vietnam. Indeed, the bulk of the narrative flits frequently into outright homage. It’s somewhat understandable when dealing with a military pilot who compiles an exemplary service record, gets a law degree in his spare time, hones legendary flying skills, survives two accidents of a type that killed all others known to be involved in them, leads a crucial combat squadron in Vietnam, then is shot down and not only attempts a nearly successful escape but becomes a notorious (to his captors) “hard resistor” surviving torture in the company of his fellow POW, now Senator, John McCain. Coram’s extended take on Day’s career pre-Vietnam tracks with steady military-family-man allegiances and no-B.S. character testimonials, and it’s certain to be more appreciated by fellow vets. An interesting theme does emerge post-Vietnam: an on-again, off-again association with McCain, who adopts a softer attitude than Day on POWs who did not actively resist and took an early release others declined; they also part on the Swift-boat veterans attack (denounced by McCain) on John Kerry. There are some blunt personal references to McCain in the book, particularly unflattering in the context of presidential ambitions. After two decades in retirement, Day leads an assault against the Clinton administration’s cutback of veterans’ promised medical benefits, characterized by Coram in a final, redundant reference, as “the mission God saved him for.”

The record speaks for itself; alienation and politicization lurk between the lines.

Pub Date: May 3, 2007

ISBN: 0-316-75847-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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