Had done more to illuminate the humanity of these heroes, his history would have had both merit and appeal. As it is, it is...

A BLACK PATRIOT AND A WHITE PRIEST

ANDRE CAILLOUX AND CLAUDE PASCHAL MAISTRE IN CIVIL WAR NEW ORLEANS

The saga of a rebellious priest and a black hero-soldier who both played leading roles in the drama of emancipation during the Civil War in New Orleans.

Ochs (Desegregating the Altar, not reviewed) a teacher and history department chairman at Georgetown Preparatory School, paints a densely ironic picture of the destiny of these two men whose lives cross as one is burying the other. Andre Cailloux, a captain in the Union Army, became the first black war hero when he led a hopeless charge against the Confederate forces at Port Hudson, Louisiana. Maistre, a priest whose shadowy past included mixed tales of sex and money, was nonetheless the sole Catholic voice of abolition in New Orleans in 1863. The French born-Maistre had developed a special ministry for black Catholics, and he defied his own bishop’s orders in agreeing to preside over Cailloux' funeral. But whatever large (and perhaps even the small) points Ochs is attempting to make about the Catholic clergy of the day or the trials of free blacks (such as Cailloux) who fought in the Civil War tend to get lost in a heavily footnoted and endlessly detailed swamp. The most basic necessity of such a story (i.e., a clear and vivid picture of Cailloux and Maistre) never emerges from the thicket of Ochs’s tangled narrative, leaving altogether too many unanswered questions about their lives. Indeed, it's never entirely clear if the two men ever met while Cailloux was still alive. Ochs writes that `by sharing the collective stories of our past we come to a better understanding of our common humanity and of our identity, both individual and societal.` This is true enough, and Ochs is obviously is quite sympathetic to the cause and the spirit of these two men, but it is also unfortunately true that he fails to breathe much life into them.

Had done more to illuminate the humanity of these heroes, his history would have had both merit and appeal. As it is, it is for specialists only.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-8071-2531-8

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Louisiana State Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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