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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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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