Despite largely ignoring politics, war, and culture, Amrith’s thought-provoking history makes a fascinating case that water...

UNRULY WATERS

HOW RAINS, RIVERS, COASTS, AND SEAS HAVE SHAPED ASIA'S HISTORY

A compelling history of India over the last 200 years mostly describing how its people and rulers have dealt with the weather.

Amrith (History and South Asian Studies/Harvard Univ.; Crossing the Bay of Bengal: The Furies of Nature and the Fortunes of Migrants, 2013, etc.), a MacArthur fellow, reminds readers that India contains great rivers and a famous monsoon, but these deliver only 4 percent of the world’s fresh water to 14 percent of its population. He also reminds us that Britain ruled India to make money; even the cost of government and military operations came from Indian taxpayers. Agricultural products, the source of most of this wealth, depended heavily on monsoon rains; when they diminished, famines occurred and tax collections dropped. Documented since ancient times, famines probably became more severe with population growth in the 19th century and the effect of British rule. Most people believed that modern technology would fix matters. Amrith mines British and Indian archives to produce a lively history whose heroes, mostly obscure, developed modern meteorology and built railroads, irrigation projects, canals, and especially dams. “Dams were the single largest form of public investment in modern India,” writes the author, “swallowing considerably more government expenditure than health care or education….More than any other technology, they promised a mastery of nature.” Major famines as late as 1943 only reinforced this policy. Nationalists were also believers, and following independence, there was a greater push for more projects. The author documents innumerable missteps and suffering but admits that it worked. Many Indians still go hungry, but food production has vastly increased. Still, Amrith doesn’t avoid the bad news about the future. Global warming is melting Himalayan snows that feed Asian rivers and worsening the weather, and India is already quarreling with neighboring nations when their actions threaten to divert river water.

Despite largely ignoring politics, war, and culture, Amrith’s thought-provoking history makes a fascinating case that water is equally important, perhaps more so.

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-465-09772-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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