A palpable, loving evocation of experiences “tucked deep” into the author’s soul.

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ALPINE APPRENTICE

How two years at a school in the Swiss Alps changed the life of a rebellious teenager.

Growing up in Washington, D.C., in the late 1960s, essayist and Sarabande Books editor-in-chief Gorham (Study in Perfect, 2014, etc.) was bullied so mercilessly by her classmates that she thought about suicide. Hurt and angry, she vented her feelings on her four younger sisters, tormenting, teasing, and attacking them. Banished to an attic room, she howled in fury. When her frustrated parents, their patience worn thin, offered to send her to an international school in Switzerland, where she would get “an exotic secondary education,” Gorham leapt at the chance. In her graceful, nostalgic memoir, she recalls traveling alone to the village of Goldern; acclimating to a school where students were awakened by a loud gong in the early hours of the morning to begin their chores; learning German (she picked up the language in 3 months, she reports proudly); and becoming a productive member of a close-knit community. The author discovered at the Ecole d’Humanité a “unique mixture of progressive education and tightly orchestrated environment.” The school was founded by an idealistic couple, Paul Geheeb and his wife, Edith, based on “a single, essential thought: Become who you are.” When faced with any choice, students were encouraged to ask themselves, “who do I want to be?” Although focused on self-reliance, the school nurtured a strong sense of community and responsibility to others. Adults were everywhere, monitoring students’ academic progress and, equally important, their emotional and social growth. Besides portraits of teachers and fellow students, Gorham offers a frothy piece on meringues, a savory recollection of the “beefy, winey rush” of bindenfleisch, and a tense essay about an avalanche that took one student’s life and incited “grief, fear, and anger” among the community. Returning to Goldern as an adult, Gorham broke down in tears, overcome with memories.

A palpable, loving evocation of experiences “tucked deep” into the author’s soul.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8203-5072-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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