A mesmerizing, rarely mentioned piece of labor history, crackingly told. (10 b&w photographs, not seen)

THE BATTLE OF BLAIR MOUNTAIN

THE STORY OF AMERICA’S LARGEST LABOR UPRISING

A stunning re-creation of the great West Virginia uprising of 1921, when some 10,000 armed miners confronted coal operators and their hired guns in an attempt to unionize.

After WWI, President Wilson’s New Freedom was out, as were idealism, the rights of labor, and dissent. “The conservative trend was also marked by an enhanced reverence for free enterprise, its leaders and all their works, an attitude which served to reinforce the resistance of these worthies to the demands of labor,” writes former political correspondent Shogan (War Without End, 2002, etc.; Government/Johns Hopkins), sounding more like Big Bill Haywood than the free-thinking historian he mostly proves to be in these impassioned pages. Inflation was wrecking the old wage structure; demand was falling in the postwar economy. The United Mine Workers (UMW) had adopted the new work-within-the system unionism of Samuel Gompers, but in West Virginia, a more radical faction also had a change in the political landscape on their minds. It was obvious, Shogan writes, that all the West Virginia coal mines had to be unionized, or the nonunion mines would offset the production stoppages of the striking mines, giving the union a case of the dwindles. Wilson's swing to the right, the difficulties of unionizing the disparate West Virginia working classes, the role of federal troops, ancient enmities, and conspicuous actors like Sid Hatfield (yes, of those Hatfields), who turned a blood feud into union resistance, are among the volatile ingredients Shogan blends into a zesty narrative stew. He suggests that America’s “promise of opportunity, individual freedom and fairness under the law” led the miners to lay down their arms, but leaves open the possibility that they may have simply had a good sense of bad timing. Indeed, the time would never be right in West Virginia for social justice, though unions prompted employers to throw the populace a few economic sops.

A mesmerizing, rarely mentioned piece of labor history, crackingly told. (10 b&w photographs, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8133-4096-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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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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