An important story of a great civil rights battle told in exhaustive detail.



A journalist and political science professor chronicles the fight for same-sex marriage from its beginnings through the presidential candidacy of Pete Buttigieg.

In 1990, three same-sex couples applied “on a lark” for Hawaii marriage licenses. The inevitable rejection set in motion a cascade of legal and political challenges that culminated in the landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which legalized same-sex marriage throughout the U.S. In this exceptionally comprehensive but overlong and inefficiently organized account, Issenberg, Washington correspondent for the Monocle, shows how the movement lurched forward through triumphs in states like Vermont and Massachusetts and seemingly fatal setbacks such as Bill Clinton’s signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Advocates of marriage equality had to overcome not just political and religious foes—among them, Catholic bishops, Protestant evangelicals, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—but conflicts in their own ranks between incrementalists willing to settle for civil unions and those who saw anything less than marriage as second-class status for same-sex couples. The movement prevailed with the help of courageous opponents such as Dan Foley, a Buddhist attorney who took on the Hawaii marriage-license applicants as clients after chanting about it; and Mary Bonauto, a lawyer for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, whom former congressman Barney Frank called “our Thurgood Marshall.” Issenberg’s encyclopedic narrative, though written well on the sentence level, has an inelegant structure that reveals an author unable or unwilling to necessarily condense the narrative (at least 200 pages could have been cut). He also includes too many unedifying details, including an attempt to put Barack Obama’s support for gay rights in context in part by stating, “Both Obama’s high-school drug dealer and favorite college professor were gay men.” Future journalists or historians will likely offer more efficient histories, but Issenberg’s research makes the book a vital source for bookstores, libraries, and LGBTQ studies completists.

An important story of a great civil rights battle told in exhaustive detail.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-524-74873-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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