A thoughtful, rigorous discussion of one of the most significant political marriages in American history.

DOLLEY AND JAMES MADISON

AN UNLIKELY LOVE STORY THAT SAVED AMERICA

A historical exploration of the relationship and unique political collaboration between Dolley and James Madison.

According to Smith, historians often consider James Madison a weak president. But when his wife, Dolley, is “added into the equation,” the pair can “legitimately lay claim to be the greatest or one of the greatest presidencies in American history.” In order to substantiate that audaciously original position, the author traces their marriage to its unlikely beginnings. When they first met, possibly through the matchmaking of Aaron Burr, both were suffering from emotional losses. Dolley had lost her husband and infant son to illness, and James was wounded from a heartbreaking romantic rejection. They married in 1794, and Dolley was a steadfast companion, providing emotional and intellectual support through the whole of James’ extraordinary political career, including his time as secretary of state under President Thomas Jefferson and his own tenure in the White House. Smith furnishes a perspicacious political history of the era and its tumult, and he artfully highlights Dolley’s contributions and bravery—his depiction of her devotion to her husband during the disastrous conclusion of the War of 1812 is moving. Dolley’s “natural kindness and personal strength,” as well as her unwavering Quaker faith and charity, are poignantly captured. Smith also makes a compelling case that, contrary to a now popular view that James was a deist, he shared Dolley’s religious convictions. The author doesn’t quite demonstrate the following surely hyperbolic claim: “It is doubtful that America could have survived it first perilous generation as a nation conceived in liberty and law were it not for her contributions.” However, this exaggeration aside, Smith’s admiration for the couple skirts outright hagiography—he takes them to task for their participation in the “evil of slavery” as well as for James’ ungenerous policies regarding Native Americans.

A thoughtful, rigorous discussion of one of the most significant political marriages in American history.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-977219-03-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Outskirts Press

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2020

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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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Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

WILLIE NELSON'S LETTERS TO AMERICA

An epistolary grab bag of memories, lyrics, jokes, and homespun philosophy from the legendary musician.

As an indefatigable touring artist, Nelson (b. 1933) has had a lot of time on his hands during the pandemic. Following his collaboration with his sister, Me and Sister Bobbie, the road warrior offers a loose collection of lessons from a full life. If you’ve never read a book by or about Nelson, this one—characteristically conversational, inspirational, wise, funny, and meandering—is a good place to start. The book is filled with lyrics to many of his best-known songs, most of which he wrote but others that he has made his own as well. For those steeped in The Tao of Willie (2006), some of the stories will be as familiar as the songs—e.g., the origin story of his nicknames, including Booger Red and Shotgun Willie; his time as a DJ and a door-to-door Bible and encyclopedia salesman; early struggles in Nashville with “all the record executives who only see music as a bottom-line endeavor”; and return to his home state of Texas. Many of the personal stories about family and friends can be found in Me and Sister Bobbie, but they are good stories from a rich life, one of abundance for which Nelson remains profoundly grateful. So he gives thanks in the form of letters: to Texas, America, God, golf, and marijuana; the audiences who have supported him and the band that has had his back; those who have played any part in Farm Aid or his annual Fourth of July concert bashes; and departed friends and deceased heroes, one of whom, Will Rogers, answers him back. Nelson even addresses one to Covid-19, which looms over this book, making the author itchy and antsy. Even at 87, he can’t wait to be on the road again.

Another amiable book that is just what you’d expect from Willie.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7852-4154-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper Horizon

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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