A well-crafted local history that moves beyond institutional growth to capture the spirit of the people in the pews. O—Connor has made a career of Boston history (The Boston Irish, 1995; Civil War Boston, 1997) and teaches at a Catholic college, so it seems only natural that he should eventually synthesize these interests into a book about the city’s most conspicuous religion. He follows the Church’s rise from a minority sect despised by the Puritans, through its tentative acceptance after the Revolution, to its quashing again by the resurgent “nativism” of the 1840s and ’50s, when tens of thousands of Irish fled the Potato Famine by teeming onto Boston’s shores. In the late 19th century, Boston’s Irish turned inward somewhat, building their own institutions, such as churches, parochial schools, and hospitals. They also faced a renewed campaign of ethnic opposition—not from the Old Guard this time, but from the new Italian and southeast European immigrants who began arriving in droves in the 1880s. (O—Connor can be faulted for focusing overmuch on the Irish experience, neglecting these other Catholic immigrant groups.) By the 20th century, Catholics, especially the Irish, dominated local politics, symbolized by the election of JFK’s grandfather John F. Fitzgerald as Boston’s mayor. O—Connor traces how WWII stimulated Catholicism’s numeric growth just as it did for Protestants (from 1944 to 1960, the number of Boston Catholics was growing by 50,000—60,000 per year). O—Connor also demonstrates the short-lived nature of this surge by including graphs depicting the archdiocese’s decline in priests, schools, and other institutions since the 1970s. However, the cycle of immigration and renewal seems to be repeating itself. Southeast Asian immigrants are filling the empty parishes, and the archdiocese now offers Mass in 15 different languages. Strong overall, replete with local texture, and geared toward the general reader. (33 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 1998

ISBN: 1-55553-359-0

Page Count: 338

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1998

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

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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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