In any case, there’s not much Broadway razzle-dazzle in these extremely decorous pages, but MacNeil’s seen enough to keep...

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LOOKING FOR MY COUNTRY

FINDING MYSELF IN AMERICA

A quarter-century after Wordstruck (1989), MacNeil returns to the memoir form to limn the slow accrual of character definitions, highlighted by critical historical episodes, which marked him as a newsman and shaped his journey from Canadian birth to US citizenship.

In an always amiable voice, proper though candid, the author acknowledges his adopted country’s faults: crude and excessive, its citizens sometimes seem too much the masters of the universe, a preening bunch who scant the poor as they coddle the rich. Yet MacNeil affirms America’s better nature as a great engine of democracy and prosperity, the cockpit of social evolution, the largest home of tolerance, “a force for good in the world.” Growing up in Nova Scotia, influenced by his Anglophile mother, he wound up living on and off in England for much of his life. A burgeoning news career found him cast to-and-fro across the Atlantic, and he took to the “ethnic minestrone of America . . . a spicy, garlicky, herbal potpourri absent or discouraged in Canada’s white porcelain airs.” Yet it was his career that determined his line of sight as he witnessed the hot and cold wars, assassinations, racism, and corruption. Working for Reuters in London in 1956, MacNeil acquired “an early perspective on the Cold War . . . a little to one side and accustomed to skepticism of American behavior.” When he started the first American public-TV news program in 1975, he sought to dig deeper than the empty soundbite, taking a more studied pace and stressing “coherence and editorial discipline . . . with beat reporters heavily outnumbering producers.” MacNeil’s evolution as a reporter has a distinct, entertaining path, while his attempt to situate his search for a homeland amid his professional wanderings seems spurious. “Walking home one fine evening past Lincoln Center, I had the sudden realization: I am a New Yorker!” Point taken, but it’s a minor point.

In any case, there’s not much Broadway razzle-dazzle in these extremely decorous pages, but MacNeil’s seen enough to keep his reminiscences percolating.

Pub Date: May 13, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50781-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2003

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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