THE BOSTON IRISH

A POLITICAL HISTORY

A solid, if narrow, exploration of the rich intertwining of the Irish and municipal politics in Boston. O'Connor (History/Boston College; Building a New Boston, not reviewed) proceeds from, and backs up, an intriguing premise: The curious history of Boston—dominated by staunch Yankees who disdained the Irish and hated Catholics—politically and socially molded that city's Irish in a way that was distinct from their countrymen who settled elsewhere. It created a sincerely religious, politically suspect, romantic, and secretive community. By the 1880s, according to O'Connor, the Boston Irish had matured as a community, finding new jobs in the growing public utility companies and spreading beyond the traditional waterfront districts. In 1884 publisher Patrick Maguire helped elect Hugh O'Brien, the first Irish-born mayor (who actually governed like a prudent Yankee). As the century turned, the Boston Irish had the numbers to eschew Brahmin alliances. The administration of John (Honey Fitz) Fitzgerald (JFK's grandfather) was marked by cronyism; he was succeeded by the colorful populist James Michael Curley, who, resisting the Yankees, doled out favors in all ethnic neighborhoods and later was singed by scandal. After WW II, a more progressive generation, less wedded to immigrant solidarity, took over. Boston's downtown was rebuilt, but neighborhoods resisted urban renewal, and school busing disputes split the city—a clash, the author notes, between the Irish political strains of ``rebel'' and ``organization man.'' O'Connor suggests that the Irish tradition of compassionate local politics could help multicultural Boston redefine urbanism. He could have done more however, to engage broader questions of the Irish role in cultural institutions, such as the press and sports, and in state and national politics. For Bostonians, urban history buffs, and those wearing the green. (photos, not seen)

Pub Date: May 31, 1995

ISBN: 1-55553-220-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1995

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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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