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A well-documented narrative that would benefit from more consistent analysis.

A dual biography chronicles three years of upheaval in the civil rights movement.

Journalist Levingston (Little Demon in the City of Light: A True Story of Murder and Mesmerism in Belle Epoque Paris, 2014, etc.), the nonfiction book editor of the Washington Post, synthesizes voluminous material—biographies, memoirs, histories, and archival documents—to produce a comprehensive examination of the relationship between John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. That relationship was fraught even before the two men met in secret in 1960: Kennedy had decided to run for president and hoped for an endorsement from King, already a major figure in the fight for racial equality. “King had much to offer Kennedy,” writes the author, but Kennedy had little but promises to offer King. “He did not have the grasp and the comprehension of the depths and dimensions of the problem,” King recalled. Moreover, Kennedy was reluctant to upset Southern Democrats by aligning himself with King. Distilling many sources, Levingston wavers in his analysis of Kennedy’s commitment to civil rights: some sources hail him as a man “sympathetic to the suffering of others” with “a reflexive dislike of unfairness.” Others saw him as a political opportunist, “deaf” to “cries for freedom,” feigning interest in order to win the black vote but ignoring civil rights unless it directly benefited his own agenda. Although Levingston insists that Kennedy was “a man of intellect and compassion,” some evidence he presents supports the idea that the Kennedy brothers saw civil rights as the “moral issue” that would burnish the president’s image. A stronger argument would have helped to reconcile this contradiction, which persists throughout the book. Similarly, Levingston presents Robert Kennedy as sometimes passionately sympathetic to civil rights and sometimes harshly impatient of King’s pleas for help from the White House. The author does make a case for the brothers’ naiveté, calling them “novices plunged into a maelstrom far more complicated than they realized at first.” Not surprisingly, King was repeatedly frustrated in his dealings with them.

A well-documented narrative that would benefit from more consistent analysis.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-26739-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Hachette

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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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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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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