A rare example of a gripping institutional history.




A former Peace Corps insider chronicles the history of the agency.

Meisler (Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War, 2006, etc.) left journalism to serve as a Peace Corps administrator during its formative years in the 1960s. He then returned to journalism overseas, but kept track of Corps politics and culture. Created during the presidency of John F. Kennedy and directed at first by Kennedy’s brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, the Corps sent hurriedly trained American volunteers to nations across the globe, starting with Ghana and Tanzania. Meisler wisely alternates the focus among the political appointees running the Washington, D.C., headquarters, the country directors trying to fit in with embassy diplomats and the volunteers themselves, by now numbering more than 200,000. Although clearly fond of the organization’s mission, the author takes the story beyond valentine mode to discuss manipulation of the volunteers for U.S. foreign-policy purposes, crimes committed against and by the volunteers, White House occupants tone deaf to the Corps culture and unwise budget slashers within Congress. The narrative is filled with surprises, such as Meisler's positive chapter about the directorship of Loret Miller Ruppe, appointed by President Reagan, who appeared to lack even the slightest qualification for the position, given her status as a brewery heiress and the wife of a Republican congressman. However, she became a savvy, non-ideological and even beloved director. In the final chapter, the author discusses the Corps’ status during the Obama administration; Meisler approves Obama's choice as director of Aaron Williams, a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Dominican Republic. In an afterword, the author grapples with the complex question, “Does the Peace Corps Do Any Good?” He answers in the affirmative, with relatively minor caveats.

A rare example of a gripping institutional history.

Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8070-5049-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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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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