A moving, urgent work of political awareness.

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THE RAQQA DIARIES

ESCAPE FROM ISLAMIC STATE

A rare, terrifying glimpse inside the Islamic State group (referred to here as Daesh) by a young hounded Syrian student.

Dedicated to “Syria’s media activists,” who are routinely and viciously executed by beheading or crucifixion in Daesh-controlled areas of Syria, this moving first-person narrative is the work of the pseudonymous writer “Samer,” who was forced to flee his hometown of Raqqa after life under Daesh became unbearable. The narrative begins on March 6, 2013, when the narrator, a young man from a large family trying to attend university and help support his younger siblings, became aware of the faltering of the Free Syrian Army and the worrisome advent of the Daesh. The relentless religious police prowled the street to impose restrictive women’s dress standards and bans on smoking and possession of TVs and to extract money from businesses; many of their actions were arbitrary and vindictive. Soon it became very dangerous to utter any criticism of the new regime. Once content with the life of his parents, “with all its simplicity and innocent dreams,” Samer got caught up in Arab resistance and hindered at every step by economic plight (his father had to work two jobs to make ends meet), lack of opportunity (Samer had to give up his dreams of studying architecture), and blighted love—the one sympathetic woman he loved at the university was forced to marry a Free Syrian Army fighter in a sordid bargain to release her brother from jail. Samer’s father was denounced as a dissident by his boss and then died in a Russian-backed bombing of their family home, and many of his outspoken friends were jailed or publicly executed. The author understood that documenting and broadcasting the message of repression and murder out to the world might help save his people, if he saved his own life first (he now lives in a refugee camp in northern Syria). BBC foreign affairs correspondent Thomson provides a brief introduction.

A moving, urgent work of political awareness.

Pub Date: June 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56656-005-4

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Interlink

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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