An excellent introduction for laymen and students of literature.

READ REVIEW

GEORGE ORWELL

BATTLING BIG BROTHER

A concise account of a tireless political writer’s adventures and education.

The publication of Orwell’s novel 1984 serves as the endpoint for this pocket biography, insofar as everything in the writer’s rich life seems to have contributed to that masterpiece. Agathocleous (English/Rutgers) argues that Orwell’s status as a scholarship boy at Eton awakened his sense of class consciousness early on. Working in the Imperial Police in Burma introduced him to the injustices of colonialism. Posing as a derelict in London and Paris, he began his literary career as a participatory journalist, seeing first-hand the economic failures of the prosperous West. These stories are well known, of course, and the author does not add much to them. Chapters devoted to Orwell’s experience in the Spanish Civil War and as a BBC correspondent in London during WWII are more informative: Orwell was frustrated by the censors and the bureaucrats of the BBC, and these lesser difficulties compared unfavorably with his charged, egalitarian experiences in Spain (where he fought bravely and suffered injuries). Eventually he quit the BBC to write for leftist journals and engage in the political infighting of the day, bucking popular opinion—and elite dogma—in his criticisms of the USSR. In due time that struggle bore fruit: in 1945 he published his fable Animal Farm, a manifesto against the abuse of political power that was also his first critical and financial success. Three years later, with the war over and Stalin by then perceived as an enemy, he wrote 1984 while ensconced on a Scottish island, bedridden and dying from tuberculosis. Details of Orwell’s family life are given throughout, but his literary exploits crowd them out. Recent charges that Orwell denounced friends and colleagues to the British authorities as communist sympathizers are given scant attention, however, and may prompt frustrated readers to wonder why a longer consideration of this topic was omitted.

An excellent introduction for laymen and students of literature.

Pub Date: July 3, 2000

ISBN: 0-19-512185-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2000

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PICK AND SHOVEL POET

THE JOURNEYS OF PASCAL D’ANGELO

In 1910, Pascal D’Angelo and his father left the harsh Abruzzi region of Italy to escape its impossible poverty and journey to the United States; Pascal was 16 years old. Murphy, a graceful narrator of history, presents the life of the peasant as he journeyed through life in the new country. He never became wealthy or even comfortable, but did leave an impression with his poetry—and this from a man who became literate in English as an adult, largely self-taught (and librarians will be delighted to know that they helped him). D’Angelo also wrote an autobiography, Son of Italy, relating to life as an immigrant and the hard—largely pick-and-shovel—work he did to earn a scant living. Such a telling should resonate when readers think about why people come to a new country where they do not speak the language, do not know the customs, and too often are alone, even (or especially) today. The protagonist does not come through as a sharp personality; he is somewhat shadowy against the times and places of his life. He stands out as a symbol rather than a full person. But his accomplishments are certainly large. Archival photos are interesting but sometimes captions are non-indicative; what do they mean? When and where were they taken? There are two photos of D’Angelo. As usual, Murphy provides details that help set the story. A biography of a common man that is also the history of a civilization and its times. (index and bibliography) (Biography. 9-14)

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-395-77610-4

Page Count: 162

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2006).

THE FAR AWAY BROTHERS

TWO YOUNG MIGRANTS AND THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN LIFE

Markham relies on her roles as a journalist and a worker in the realm of refugee resettlement and immigrant education to craft a powerful narrative about an experience that plays out every day in the United States.

Focusing primarily on one family’s struggle to survive in violence-riddled El Salvador by sending some of its members illegally to the U.S., the author never loses sight of the big-picture issues regarding immigration. Throughout, she inserts brief chapters about those concerns in a compellingly intimate narrative about the Flores family. Markham keenly examines the plights of juveniles sent to America without adult supervision, a large, constantly growing contingent that includes twins Ernesto and Raúl Flores, who sought to escape their hometown because they feared for their lives among the rampant gang violence plaguing their country. Knowing almost nothing about the U.S., the Flores twins lacked both money for their journey and any marketable job skills, and they spoke no English. Their journey was harrowing, to say the least (spoilers omitted), and their transition to life in the U.S., mostly in Oakland, continues, raising new difficulties each day. As they have tried to balance their minimum-wage restaurant jobs with education, the schooling has suffered. Meanwhile, their parents and most of their siblings continue to live in highly dangerous circumstances in El Salvador. Markham met the twins in her job as a counselor at a public high school with a heavy influx of juvenile refugees without documentation, and her experience in that role informs the eye-opening narrative. Most of the book takes place before the election of Donald Trump, but it’s clear that the policies of the new administration will make the lives of the Flores twins and countless others even more terrifying.

One of the most searing books on illegal immigration since Sonia Nazario’s Enrique’s Journey (2006).

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-90618-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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