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THE KENNEDYS

AMERICA’S EMERALD KINGS: A FIVE-GENERATION HISTORY OF THE ULTIMATE IRISH-CATHOLIC FAMILY

Largely airbrushed family portrait, with warts shown mainly on the face of a prejudiced society. (Two 16-page b&w photo...

A hefty, well-documented, glowing account of the Kennedys as prime examples of the Irish-Catholic experience in America.

For this five-generation history of the clan from the mid-19th century to the present day, Newsday journalist and biographer Maier (Newhouse, 1996, etc.) makes extensive use of patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy’s personal papers; interviews and correspondence with family and friends in both the US and Ireland round out the picture. Much of the saga is already familiar, but Maier takes particular interest in the Kennedys’ religious and ethnic background, how it influenced their thinking and their actions. He paints a vivid picture of the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment that faced immigrants with brogues, and he shows how the first American-born Kennedy, P.J., used his position as a tavern owner to become ward boss in his Irish immigrant community. The account becomes increasingly detailed as it shifts to P.J.’s son Joseph. Rather than focusing on how the patriarch became wealthy, Maier looks at how he used his wealth and power behind the scenes in the Catholic Church. Among Joseph’s children, the author is most interested in Jack’s use of his Irish-Catholic background early in his political career and his struggles against anti-Catholic bias in the 1960 presidential campaign. Maier also examines how JFK’s presidency affected perceptions of the Church by outsiders, and especially how his background shaped his positions on civil rights, immigration, and the war on communism. Later he looks at Robert’s appeal to other ethnic minorities, including Latinos and blacks, and to the efforts of Ted and Jean to bring peace to Northern Ireland. In the next generation, Maier finds that it is often the women (e.g., Caroline Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend) who have assumed the role of “Irish chieftain,” those traditional clan leaders of old who inspired and led their people.

Largely airbrushed family portrait, with warts shown mainly on the face of a prejudiced society. (Two 16-page b&w photo inserts, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2003

ISBN: 0-465-04317-8

Page Count: 600

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2003

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015


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  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist


  • National Book Award Winner

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 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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NIGHT

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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