A tremendously elucidating book that should be required reading for civics courses.

THE TRUE FLAG

THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE

A timely work on the vociferous sides taken over the Spanish-American War of 1898—and how that history relates to the ongoing debate regarding American imperialism.

In this engaging, well-focused history, Kinzer (The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and Their Secret World, 2013, etc.), a former New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua and Boston Globe Latin America correspondent, plunges into the heated conversations in Washington and the tabloids over American expansionist designs on Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam at the turn of the 19th century. During a “ravenous fifty-five day spasm” in the summer of 1898, the United States “asserted control” over these far-flung nations—totaling 11 million people—by handily defeating the Spanish fleet and thus acquiring rather suddenly an overseas empire. Was this even constitutional, and had not founder George Washington himself warned against “the mischiefs of foreign intrigue”? Using the excerpts of speeches and editorials, Kinzer skillfully extracts an immediate sense of the heated debate that gripped the country, centering around the jingoist triumvirate of Massachusetts Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, the consummate Washington insider; Theodore Roosevelt, who became Assistant Secretary of the Navy and then vice president; and the powerful publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, proprietor of the New York Journal. While the first two gave powerful, persuasive speeches on the need to extend “national authority over alien communities” and offer the U.S. urgent new markets, Hearst acted as the “mighty megaphone” for the imperialist message, especially when the sinking of the USS Maine in Havana harbor gave the casus belli to attack Spain. Rather late in the game, Mark Twain, who was traveling abroad and saw firsthand President William McKinley’s racist American policy of “benevolent assimilation,” emerged as an effective advocate for anti-imperialism, as did Andrew Carnegie and (conflictedly) William Jennings Bryan. In the last chapter, Kinzer astutely brings the debate from the turn of the century to the present.

A tremendously elucidating book that should be required reading for civics courses.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-216-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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...

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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A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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