A refreshing and inspiring look into the lives of six successful African-Americans. Lawrence-Lightfoot (Sociology/Harvard; Balm in Gilead, 1988, etc.) is perturbed by some sociologists' portrayal of the black middle class as ``materialistic bourgeois assimilationists.'' To counter that perception, she richly portrays six African-Americans. In extended conversations with her, they detail their experiences: the often riveting events that have molded their feelings about race, their attempts to negotiate the crossing between black and white society; the lives they have created for themselves, both personally and professionally. Among these exemplary people are: Toni Schiesler, a female candidate for the Episcopal priesthood; Charles Ogletree, a criminal defense lawyer and professor at Harvard Law School; Felton Earls, an epidemiologist and psychiatrist at Harvard's School of Public Health; and Cheryle Wills, entrepreneur and owner of radio and television stations. While all have achieved great success in their fields, their backgrounds differ widely. Schiesler was the illegitimate daughter of a rape victim. Earls, on the other hand, was born into a solidly middle-class family that had deep roots in New Orleans. Yet a few themes do recur. One is the cultural obsession with skin color among middle-class blacks, and a caste system favoring lighter complexions. Another theme is their intense empathy for less fortunate African-Americans. All six claim to understand the rage that surfaced in L.A. in 1992—seeing the riots as symptomatic of racism in American society. ``It wasn't senseless...it was the decades of brutalization,'' says Wills. The book doesn't present a full picture of the black middle class, with its diverse approaches to politics and debates about assimilation—but it doesn't claim to. Lawrence-Lightfoot presents successful people determined to remember where they—individually and as a people—came from, and she brings her formidable storytelling gifts to their lives. (Book- of-the-Month Club main selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-58120-5

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1994



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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