A worthy memoir of dark times, full of practical lessons for resistance and community organizing today.

A Holocaust survivor recounts life lessons of use to the latter-day downtrodden.

Born Szmulek Rosental in Lodz, Poland, Ross, founder of the New England Holocaust Memorial, was a young boy when the Germans arrived and set about destroying Jewish homes and killing Jewish men, women, and children. An early victim, he writes, was a grandmother who was thrown from a high window after failing to produce hidden treasures quickly enough. Ross quickly came to a realization: “God will not protect us.” Left to his own devices, he grew up too quickly in a sequence of concentration camps yet lived to tell the tale. Under the aegis of postwar relief organizations, he came to the United States after the war ended, followed later by a surviving brother. A born negotiator, he excelled at practical politics, which stood him in good stead in social work and later as an administrator in Boston’s city government, in charge of education in underserved communities where education was not a given. One of the highlights of the book is the author’s account of strong-arming an unwilling admissions officer into admitting ghetto kids into a storied top-tier school: “I will bring you six qualified students, and you will let them take summer classes here. On a scholarship. If they are successful, you can enroll them in school here and either pay for their tuition or provide them with aid tied to a job here on campus.” Ross adds that he had a newspaper reporter in tow to chronicle the outcome of the meeting, a fine bit of blackmail that worked. The author emerges as a resilient character who is determined not to allow the enemies of the past to re-emerge in the present unchallenged; his book opens with a cri de coeur on Charlottesville, and it ends with a defiant testimonial: “I am a survivor.”

A worthy memoir of dark times, full of practical lessons for resistance and community organizing today.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-51304-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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