A comprehensive and vividly narrated history, enriched by well-chosen illustrations, that is as much an epic-in-progress as...

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TO MAKE OUR WORLD ANEW

A HISTORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS

From historians in the field, ten essays (a few of them pedestrian in style or leftist in perspective) chronologically detailing the history of African-Americans from their arrival in the New World to the present—a dark story, unfortunately, relieved by a few radiant moments of hope.

In the preface, Kelly and Lewis make some rather sweeping Afrocentric claims (that black labor, for example, helped give birth to capitalism), but—with the exception of the two last essays—the rest of their study offers nuanced commentary and perceptive insights. The first essay, “The First Passage 1502–1617,” details the origins of slavery and reads like a college textbook, but Peter Wood's “Strange New Land 1617–1776” is an elegant and vivid account of the years in which slavery was transformed from a potentially temporary condition to a race-based and increasingly permanent state. The essays offer brief vignettes of the famous—Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Martin Luther King—as well as portraits of ordinary men and women (`I had a kind master, but I didn't know but any time I might be sold away off, and when I found I could get my freedom, I was very glad,` one former slave observed). Well-chosen facts illustrate the relevant periods and the constantly evolving nature of the black struggle: in Georgia during the Revolutionary War, a third of the slaves took advantage of the British invasion to escape; in New Jersey, slaves were not freed until nearly 30 years after the Declaration of Independence; during the 1930s, Federal intervention caused black illiteracy to drop by ten percent. The last two essays, which cover the recent present, reflect the political bias of Kelly and Lewis and offer a benign take on the Black Panther's attempts at armed insurrection while scanting the achievements of General Colin Powell.

A comprehensive and vividly narrated history, enriched by well-chosen illustrations, that is as much an epic-in-progress as a scholarly record. (color and b&w illustrations)

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-19-513945-3

Page Count: 784

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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