A provocative work, tinged with sadness and anger.

READ REVIEW

LOSE YOUR MOTHER

A JOURNEY ALONG THE ATLANTIC SLAVE ROUTE

Somber meditation by a descendant of slaves who journeyed to Africa to understand her past.

In 1997, Hartman (English/UC Berkeley) went to Ghana as a Fulbright Scholar and spent a year researching the slave trade. “Intent on tracing an itinerary of destruction from the coast to the savanna,” she did much more than simply uncover the past; her book describes a deeply personal journey taken by a woman who insists that the ghosts of slavery still haunt the present. The author visited Elmina, the place where slaves captured in the hinterlands by Africans were sold to European slave traders and warehoused before shipment across the Atlantic to the New World. She traveled north to visit Salaga, home of the largest slave market in Ghana. The text mingles accounts of her explorations of the present-day sites, including Elmina’s underground dungeon, with the dark stories of their pasts, conjuring up brutal, bloody images. Hartman also weaves in the story of her own ancestors—or rather, of how little she knows about them, since to be a slave is to “lose your mother”: to lose your identity, your past, your country. The author’s research into the slave trade turns up a host of vivid and gruesome details, including a horrific account of the torture and murder of a young woman by a British sea captain who was later tried and acquitted of the crime. She depicts herself throughout as a lonely figure, regarded as an outsider by Ghanaians. Their ancestors were fortunate enough to elude capture, so they did not share the sense of loss that shaped Hartman’s and many other African-American lives.

A provocative work, tinged with sadness and anger.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2007

ISBN: 0-374-27082-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2019

  • New York Times Bestseller

EDISON

One of history’s most prolific inventors receives his due from one of the world’s greatest biographers.

Pulitzer and National Book Award winner Morris (This Living Hand and Other Essays, 2012, etc.), who died this year, agrees that Thomas Edison (1847-1931) almost certainly said, “genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” and few readers of this outstanding biography will doubt that he was the quintessential workaholic. Raised in a middle-class Michigan family, Edison displayed an obsessive entrepreneurial spirit from childhood. As an adolescent, he ran a thriving business selling food and newspapers on a local railroad. Learning Morse code, he spent the Civil War as a telegrapher, impressing colleagues with his speed and superiors with his ability to improve the equipment. In 1870, he opened his own shop to produce inventions to order. By 1876, he had money to build a large laboratory in New Jersey, possibly the world’s first industrial research facility. Never a loner, Edison hired talented people to assist him. The dazzling results included the first commercially successful light bulb for which, Morris reminds readers, he invented the entire system: dynamo, wires, transformers, connections, and switches. Critics proclaim that Edison’s innovations (motion pictures, fluoroscope, rechargeable batteries, mimeograph, etc.) were merely improvements on others’ work, but this is mostly a matter of sour grapes. Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone was a clunky, short-range device until it added Edison’s carbon microphone. And his phonograph flabbergasted everyone. Humans had been making images long before Daguerre, but no one had ever reproduced sound. Morris rivetingly describes the personalities, business details, and practical uses of Edison’s inventions as well as the massive technical details of years of research and trial and error for both his triumphs and his failures. For no obvious reason, the author writes in reverse chronological order, beginning in 1920, with each of the seven following chapters backtracking a decade. It may not satisfy all readers, but it works.

Not only the definitive life, but a tour de force by a master.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9311-0

Page Count: 800

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more