A poignant reminder of the power of hope.

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THE QUEEN OF KATWE

A STORY OF LIFE, CHESS, AND ONE EXTRAORDINARY GIRL'S DREAM OF BECOMING A GRANDMASTER

Sports journalist Crothers' (The Man Watching: A Biography of Anson Dorrance, the Unlikely Architect of the Greatest College Sports Dynasty Ever, 2006, etc.) moving account of an impoverished Ugandan girl's unlikely rise to prominence in the world of competitive chess.

Phiona Mutesi discovered chess by accident. Eager to find out where her brother Brian went when he "[snuck] away from his chores," 9-year-old Phiona followed him to a "dusty veranda" in Katwe, the slum where they lived. There, she encountered a group of children learning about chess through an outreach program designed to bring food, sports and religion to poor children. The program leader, Robert Katende, encouraged the shy Phiona to join and paired her with a 4-year-old girl to pick up the basics of the game. Soon, she was playing, and defeating, the most advanced boys in the group. Deciding that his players, whom he christened the Pioneers, needed a goal beyond simply mastering the game, Katende began entering them in local tournaments against other children from more privileged backgrounds. Though shunned for being dirty "street kids,” they still made a respectable showing. But it wasn't until 2007, when Phiona unexpectedly became Uganda's female under-20 chess champion, that Katende realized the extent of her gift. Under his tutelage, she went on to win the 2008 and 2009 junior championships and help a group of other talented Pioneers win an international tournament in 2010. Later that year, she was invited to play in another team event, the Chess Olympiad in Siberia. Although she lost, she gained the respect of older players, who declared that she was a grandmaster in the making. As Crothers points out, however, whether Phiona can live up to her potential will depend on whether she can outmaneuver an even more formidable opponent: the environment of Katwe, which "conspires against her on so many levels.”

A poignant reminder of the power of hope.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-5781-4

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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