IMAGINING AMERICA

PAUL THAI'S JOURNEY FROM THE KILLING FIELDS OF CAMBODIA TO FREEDOM IN THE U.S.A.

Having survived the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodian refugee Paul Thai made his way to the US in 1981. Here, told choppily by free-lancer Fiffer (Chicago magazine, Inside Sports, etc.) is Thai's story from his family's escape into Thailand to his days with the Dallas Police Department. Sponsored by the International Rescue Committee, Thai, then 18, and his family left the Thai-Cambodian border refugee camps and flew directly from Bangkok to Dallas. Following the horrors of the Khmer Rouge takeover in 1975 and the later fighting between the Vietnamese and the ``Cambodian Freedom Fighters,'' Thai's middle- class family arrived in Texas—a place where cowboys ``shoot you down in the street''—with all the attendant cultural confusion. Placed in the ``Little Asia'' section of East Dallas, Thai, who desperately wanted to go to school, was given a job as a school custodian. He quickly learned English and volunteered as a translator with local churches and relief agencies for other refugees. When the Dallas police founded the East Dallas Community and Refugees Affairs Office (a ``storefront'' police outpost), Thai was a natural choice as a police service officer (PSO). Though PSOs went unarmed, they were required to attend the full 17 weeks at the police academy. Still thinking he might become a teacher, Thai liked police work so much that he became a US citizen and went through the academy again, this time to become a full police officer. He became discouraged, however, at the hostility and discrimination he faced from training officers and members of the community, and quit during his field training to continue his education. As of January 1991, Thai was attending the Univ. of Texas and considering reapplying to the police academy. While not the most scintillating of stories, the insights Fiffer provides into cross-cultural difficulties and the horrific descriptions of the killing fields and the refugee camps lend this an undeniable urgency. (Photos—not seen.)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1991

ISBN: 1-55778-326-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1991

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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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