A serene memoir in which the author takes valuable time to regard the character of the Palestinian people and their way of...

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A COUNTRY BETWEEN

MAKING A HOME WHERE BOTH SIDES OF JERUSALEM COLLIDE

Reflections of a young American wife and mother trying to make a home in war-torn Jerusalem.

A peripatetic writer whose first memoir, The Bread of Angels, chronicled her life in Damascus while learning Arabic, here Saldaña (English/Al-Quds Bard Coll.) chronicles the latest leg of her life’s journey: leaving the monastery in the Syrian desert she often visited to marry a French monk, Frédéric. An American from Texas who grew up Catholic, the author was from a vastly different world than her deeply devout husband. Yet they were both avid travelers, and after getting married in his provincial hometown in France, they decided to settle, implausibly, in Jerusalem. Born under a lucky star, as his mother described him, Frédéric found the couple a home in a huge old house next to a monastery on Nablus Road, just outside the gates of the Old City: the “scar” between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Saldaña’s Arab neighbors—e.g., the falafel seller who claimed her front steps for business—were intrigued by her and her Christianity as well as by her ability to speak Arabic with them; she wondered if they thought she was a spy. Many of her neighbors were bossy yet well-meaning, and when she finally got pregnant with her first child, their devotion and kindness deeply moved her. However, there was the constant specter of war just outside the borders of the neighborhood, where the Israeli soldiers constantly harassed the Palestinians for their identification papers, and the tension remained high. With limpid, often shimmering prose, Saldaña builds an impressive sense of genuine emotion, and she vividly explores the array of life in that seething section of Jerusalem. The couple’s first child was born in a hospital in Bethlehem—among other ironies beautifully understated.

A serene memoir in which the author takes valuable time to regard the character of the Palestinian people and their way of life.

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-3905-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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