VOICES OF D-DAY

THE STORY OF THE ALLIED INVASION TOLD BY THOSE WHO WERE THERE

A no-frills oral history of Operation Overlord that, for all its considerable virtues, falls short of the high standard set by other books commemorating the 50th anniversary of the invasion. Drez is assistant director of the Eisenhower Center at the University of New Orleans, which for more than 10 years has been collecting memoirs from lower-echelon veterans of the Anglo- American and Canadian forces who participated in the mid-1944 invasion of occupied Europe that signaled the beginning of the end for Hitler's Third Reich. He has used excerpts from the biographical material supplied by approximately 150 of the archive's 1,440-odd contributors to stitch together a vivid if limited version of the D-day story. His roster of sources, which encompasses Wehrmacht defenders and members of the French resistance as well as Allied troops, is at least representative, but Drez offers barely enough background information to keep the narrative comprehensible. In their set-piece testimony, the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who assaulted coastal France's strongly fortified beaches (in many cases after rides across the English Channel on landing craft whose violent maneuverings left them seasick) or dropped behind German lines under cover of darkness provide graphic accounts of the horrors experienced by combatants at the sharp end of the bayonet in Normandy. Without a big-picture perspective from Drez, however, readers unfamiliar with events could come away with precious little sense of the occasion that demanded such fearful sacrifices. Nor does the editor offer even a summary briefing on what happened to his valiant subjects in the European theater of operations or elsewhere after their first 24 hours ashore. Affecting reminiscences from the survivors of a famous victory afford a kaleidoscopic first-draft reckoning of its appalling costs.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8071-1902-4

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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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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