Those with patience for run-on sentences may enjoy this long footnote to history.

AMERICAN GUNFIGHT

THE PLOT TO KILL HARRY TRUMAN--AND THE SHOOT-OUT THAT STOPPED IT

Journalists Hunter and Bainbridge reconstruct an attempt on Harry Truman’s life, an event that “was of course gigantic news—for about a week.”

The principal actors in the November 1950 attempt were two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, devotees of a lawyer-revolutionary named Pedro Albizu Campos. The extent of their connection to Campos was not known until long after the attack, yet the operative principle was simple: If any attempt were made on Campos’s life in Puerto Rico, then cells would activate in the U.S. and kill Truman. The witness may not have been entirely reliable, and in all events of the assassination effort, there was a certain amount of dumb luck: Truman was staying across the street from the White House, which was being renovated, a fact that a helpful cab driver had to point out to Collazo and Torresola; Collazo had few qualifications apart from a commitment to the cause; much of the attack was concocted on the spot. Yet Torresola was able to shoot several guards and get within ten yards of Truman before being taken down. It all makes for an intrinsically interesting story, but the authors tend to tell everything they can about any particular point of play, layering on incidental details about the lives of D.C. cops and expounding on the history and geography of Puerto Rico while drifting much too often into breathless Dragnet-speak: “The president is in the window he is thirty feet from Griselio who stands unnoticed at the stairway to Lee House the men on the other side haven’t noticed him yet he’s shot at three men and downed them all the president is thirty feet away and he has a straight line-of-sight picture to that window and there stands the president of the United States so he is very much in the kill zone.”

Those with patience for run-on sentences may enjoy this long footnote to history.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-6068-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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