An insightful effort to bring some clarity to an incomprehensible wartime catastrophe.



In this debut memoir, a woman recalls her childhood escape from Europe after the Nazis murdered her parents and the traumatic aftermath. 

Gutmann was born in 1939 in Belgium, only months after her Jewish parents were forced into exile from their home in Berlin, fleeing the Nazis. They lived in hiding but were ultimately discovered by Vichy agents. In 1942, when the author was 3 years old, she and her mother and two older sisters were held captive at an internment camp in France. Her mother was then shipped to Auschwitz, where both of Gutmann’s parents were eventually killed. “In the face of the unknown,” the author writes, “Mama made a heart-wrenching choice to leave us behind with a stranger who promised to save our lives.” The author and her siblings were furtively sent to Switzerland by this mysterious woman. Gutmann stayed with an aunt in Zurich before leaving for New York by boat with her sisters in 1946. The author lived with her Uncle Sam and Aunt Gerdy and was ordered to forget her harrowing past. A second-grade teacher—at 7, Gutmann had never attended school before—accused her of lying when she spoke frankly of her travails. And Gerdy was mercilessly cruel, physically and verbally abusive. The author sought solace in the arms of exploitive men, and by 23 had weathered a string of failed relationships and two abortions. When her sister Rita, whom she idolized, died after a long illness in 1993, Gutmann was compelled to confront the pain of a lost childhood. In the hope of finding emotional resolution, she traveled to Germany and France, attempting to find the woman who had saved her life. The author’s story is heart-rending, told with an unflinching confessional candor (Recalling the stressful voyage to New York, she writes: “To every woman on the ship who looks kindly at me, I plead, ‘Will you be my mommy?’ ”). She delicately depicts the psychological fallout of the Holocaust—those who survived were pulverized by guilt, and the resources necessary to help them didn’t really exist. As one of Gutmann’s therapists explained, “For three decades, the traumatized survivors and guilt-ridden American Jews, who regretted that they had not done more to rescue their brethren, were frozen in silence.” This is an achingly beautiful account that includes emotionally affecting personal photographs. 

An insightful effort to bring some clarity to an incomprehensible wartime catastrophe.

Pub Date: July 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944037-95-6

Page Count: 318

Publisher: Epigraph Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2018

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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