Well researched, wonderfully written, and at times extraordinarily moving. White’s relatively small volume comes closer to...

LINCOLN’S GREATEST SPEECH

THE SECOND INAUGURAL

A thoughtful historical, cultural, and literary meditation on President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address.

Author and editor of several books examining America’s social and religious history (The Social Gospel, not reviewed, etc.) and dean of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, White is well qualified to analyze Lincoln’s powerful Second Inaugural address—a 701-word speech that took an essentially religious approach to political issues. The author begins by introducing readers to the Civil War’s turbulent closing days: wounded Union soldiers swamp the nation’s capitol; Vice President Andrew Johnson publicly drinks himself into a stupor; John Wilkes Booth observes the proceedings with quiet malevolence. Amid this chaos, White presents Lincoln’s address as a statement that transcends the politics of the day and offers both a diagnosis and a cure for a US to overcome the deep national rift caused by the Civil War. Reflecting on each paragraph of the Second Inaugural separately, he argues that Lincoln ultimately understood the Civil War in religious terms, by recognizing the horrors of slavery and battle as sins requiring a national healing rather than bloodthirsty vengeance against the Confederate states. White reminds us that while the popular American press of the time gave a tepid response to Lincoln’s call for charity for the soon-to-be-defeated South, more visionary members of his audience—like Frederick Douglass, the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, and others—hailed the speech as an important step toward a true post–Civil War union. This contrast, between the president’s sincere love for the nation and the vengeful hatred that permeated American society in early 1865, effectively illuminates the greatness of Lincoln’s perceptive intellect and formidable character.

Well researched, wonderfully written, and at times extraordinarily moving. White’s relatively small volume comes closer to finding the true spirit of Abraham Lincoln than many of the more celebrated biographies.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2002

ISBN: 0-7432-1298-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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