Poignant reading on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and of broad interest to students of American political...

An unvarnished portrait of the Kennedy scion who seemed to command all his parents’ charisma—and who met a tragic, early end.

History Channel scholar-in-residence Gillon (History/Univ. of Oklahoma; Separate and Unequal: The Kerner Commission and the Unraveling of American Liberalism, 2018, etc.) writes as both professional historian and friend—not close friend, he allows, but close enough to have had plenty of face time—of John F. Kennedy Jr. (1960-1999), who “understood what he represented to millions of people, and he was willing to assume that burden.” That self-awareness took some time to develop. By the author’s account, the usual adolescent rebellion blended with unusual privilege, and John Jr. was somewhat slow in attaining adulthood in a whirl of partying and slacking off. (Still, he was much better behaved than Bobby Kennedy’s offspring, who “were overly wild.”) In the end, breaking with the family’s Harvard tradition and going to Brown, John Jr. emerged as a person of substance, someone who was able to weave the stories of his father’s and relatives’ iconic lives into “a coherent narrative” and to figure out how to make a place for himself in that line. He did so with the magazine George, launched in 1995, which, Gillon ventures, was ahead of its time in many ways, pointing to the emergence of politicians as not just politicians, but also as figures in pop culture. Bill Clinton provided plenty of gossip, but while the timing of the magazine was right in some ways, it was soon supplanted by political talk shows that “turned talking heads into media stars." Gillon writes with a practitioner’s appreciation for historical narrative, but he doesn’t hesitate to pitch a little dirt here and there, as when he writes of family feuds, marital discord, and other things publicists like to keep out of view.

Poignant reading on the 20th anniversary of Kennedy’s death and of broad interest to students of American political dynasties.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4238-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: July 10, 2019


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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