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SOLDIER OF CHANGE

FROM THE CLOSET TO THE FOREFRONT OF THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT

How one man’s resolve gave courage to others and how he turned his public outing into an important surge of activism.

A memoir from the U.S. Army soldier booed at the Republican presidential primary debate of 2011 for asking about upholding the rights of gay and lesbian soldiers.

Snyder-Hill (formerly Steve Hill) is a gay man who was deployed twice to Iraq: first, as a 20-year-old member of the active Army in 1991, when the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was in full swing; and 20 years later, as a reservist when DADT was just getting repealed. In his relentlessly forthright memoir, the Ohio native sifts through the long, emotionally arduous journey to that moment in 2011 when he allowed his identity to be used publicly in his question to Rick Santorum, knowing the “fallout” that surely would follow among his Army peers and superiors and even risking his benefits and retirement. Ultimately, however, the author decided that he could not continue to lie about such a significant part of his identity. He writes poignantly of that “darkness” inside him that he did not understand while growing up in his small Ohio town. Not able to connect romantically with girls—though he knew that his parents expected it of him—Snyder-Hill was severely closeted throughout his teens, often undergoing torments of self-loathing without understanding why. At the end of his first deployment in Iraq, nearly hit by friendly fire, he swore to himself that if he lived, he would start living life for himself. At Ohio State University, he gradually came out to friends and family. Redeployment as a reservist meant having to hide again, especially the fact of his love and marriage to partner Josh Snyder. The author effectively underscores the damage and suspicions that DADT caused and reveals the heartening and often surprisingly support he received from all directions.

How one man’s resolve gave courage to others and how he turned his public outing into an important surge of activism.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-61234-697-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Potomac Books

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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