First-rate reporting, research, and writing in a debut that will make readers care as much as the author does.




A journalist’s first book, a graceful mix of personal memoir and political research, illuminates the complexities of Ukraine culture.

The political upheavals of post-Soviet Ukraine can confound and confuse even Ukrainians, so it’s quite an achievement for Pinkham to untangle these strands with such style and insight. Whether through happenstance or fate, she found her “idealism and longing for adventure” paired with a beginner’s study of the Russian language and a fascination with the country and surrounding region. She served as a Red Cross volunteer in Siberia before graduate school and subsequently made a series of visits to Ukraine, working on an oral history project and helping with resources for HIV/AIDS, an epidemic in a country where hard drugs and shared needles were rampant. Pinkham’s experiences with that country’s equivalents of punk rockers and communal hippies would be engaging enough on their own, but her account of how an initially nonviolent protest in the town square of Kiev turned deadly over a three-month span provides a perspective at odds with the black-and-white account one was more likely to read in Western media—other than the articles she published in the likes of the New Yorker and the New York Times, which became the foundation of this book. “Cold warriors lurched up out of their coffins, yelling about freedom, democracy, and the right side of history,” she writes, while refusing to succumb to oversimplification about freedom-loving insurgents (who might also be homophobic, misogynist and anti-Semitic) or oppressive Russia (who may well have been conducting campaigns of false information). It was difficult to tell which of many sides were to blame when Molotov cocktails were flying from different directions, and nobody could figure out whose side the deadly snipers were killing for. Pinkham humanizes the people she met and befriended, and she recognizes that, if anything, a protest that led to warlike conditions has left the future even murkier than before.

First-rate reporting, research, and writing in a debut that will make readers care as much as the author does.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-24797-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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