Well-done study of a distinguished victim of the McCarthy era, by Newman (The Cold War Romance of Lillian Hellman and John Melby, 1989; Rhetoric/Univ. of Pittsburgh). The idea that China was ever ours to lose was always questionable, but was fiercely defended by what became known as the ``China lobby'' after WW II, and anyone associated with this ``loss''—like China-expert Owen Lattimore—was in serious trouble. Condemned with impunity by Roy Cohn and Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, Lattimore, who was twice indicted but never convicted, was seen as another Alger Hiss by much of Congress and the media. Newman traces the life and thought of this ``expert's expert,'' as FDR called him, from his childhood in China and his Swiss secondary education through the development of his independent, hardheaded international point of view that proved incomprehensible to most Americans of the time. Travelling in rarified circles, chosen by FDR as WW II liaison with Chiang Kai-shek, Lattimore, as Newman shows through ample documentation including many quotes from his writings about China and Communism, was basically a conservative thinker, distrusted by the Russians. He stood by Chiang Kai-shek until the hopeless corruption of the Chinese leader's Kuomintang became clear; but Lattimore's innocence about domestic US politics, obvious from his casual, undisguised association with liberals and occasional leftists, proved his undoing. He came to believe that financing the Kuomintang was like pouring money down a rat hole, whereas the Marshall Plan could (and did) revitalize Europe; for these heresies, his life was destroyed. That it was put back together says everything, Newman shows, for Lattimore and his friends, and nothing for the American political institutions that failed him. A thought-provoking intellectual cliffhanger about a man whose thinking was ahead of his time—and who paid for it. (Fourteen photographs, two maps—not seen.)

Pub Date: April 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-520-07388-6

Page Count: 649

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1992

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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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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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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