A tough but eye-opening read.

OUR LOST BORDER

ESSAYS ON LIFE AMID THE NARCO-VIOLENCE

What has been lost is not a political boundary line between the United States and Mexico, but a 60-mile-wide cultural area above and below that line; the issues raised by the voices here reflect how and why that border has become a zone of fear, violence and bloody murder.

Cortez (Walking Home: Growing Up Hispanic in Houston, 2010, etc.) and Troncoso (Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, 2011, etc.) are writers and academics now living in Houston and New York City respectively, but both are deeply familiar with the border. They have divided their anthology into a journalistic portion titled “The Tortured Landscape,” in which four reports appear once in their original Spanish and then in an English translation, and a subjective section titled “The Personal Stories,” which includes eight essays, two by the editors describing the losses suffered by them, their friends and their families. The judgments of Mexico are harsh, with one writer asserting that “what we see now is a ‘result of a society that has been rotting for many years.’ ” The words “corruption,” “bribery” and “greed” occur over and over again, and both the government and the populace are described as passive and even complicit in the monstrous narcotics trade. Turf wars between drug cartels are unbelievably brutal, with torture, beheading and disemboweling seemingly everyday occurrences, leaving desolate such cities as Juarez and Tijuana. Nightly shootings, kidnappings, robberies and the discovery of mass graves—all these and more have put an end to a once-thriving tourist industry and a rich cultural exchange between those living on either side of the boundary. Where there were once bridges, there are now high walls. Some mention is made of the United States as the consumer of the drugs and the supplier of arms to the warring drug cartels, but this is primarily Mexico’s story, and it is a bitter one.

A tough but eye-opening read.

Pub Date: March 20, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55885-752-0

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2013

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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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