An exceedingly, commendably unique eyewitness account of a country in transition, told by a charming young narrator.

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COME BACK TO AFGHANISTAN

A CALIFORNIA TEENAGER’S STORY

What did you do over summer vacation? Akbar spent his—actually three of them—in Kunar, Afghanistan, with his father, a repatriated Afghan who happened to be tight with President Hamid Karzai.

The 20-year-old author first told his story on NPR’s This American Life—and quite an American life it’s been. Akbar grew up in California, where his father sold hip-hop–style clothing. Following 9/11 and the subsequent dismantling of the Taliban, Akbar’s father, who had left Afghanistan for Pakistan and ultimately America after the Soviet invasion of 1979, went straight home, where he became Karzai’s spokesman and, soon after, governor of the rural province Kunar. Akbar, then a high-school senior, took his exams early and skipped the prom so that he could join his father as soon as possible. Although he’d never traveled to Afghanistan before, he felt an immediate attachment to the country. On his first trip, he brought along his beloved collection of U2 CDs, and, for his father, dress socks, Krazy Glue and Tylenol PM, rarities in Kabul. Akbar attended a traditional wedding celebration; listened in on some of his father’s political meetings; dealt with suspicious security guards upon arrival from the U.S.; discussed ’80s music with American soldiers; learned to shoot; was falsely accused of smuggling gems; ogled famous Afghan writers; and visited, as a “tourist,” Osama bin Laden’s house. Refreshingly, what Akbar did not do was feel—or at least demonstrate here—much angst over what could have been conflicting identities. With the help of Harper’s editor Burton, Akbar achieves a level of artistry that co-authored works rarely even approach.

An exceedingly, commendably unique eyewitness account of a country in transition, told by a charming young narrator.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2005

ISBN: 1-58234-520-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2005

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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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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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