Poet Derricotte offers this portrait of a black woman's frustrating experience with racial prejudice from both outside and within her own people, and her own ambivalence about the color of her skin. This volume is largely comprised of the journals that Derricotte kept when she lived for the first time in a mostly white community. The author, who is light-skinned enough to ``pass'' when she wants, recounts keeping her dark-skinned husband away from real-estate brokers so that she could be shown better homes in nicer neighborhoods. This process secured her a house in an affluent suburb of New York but led to so much self-loathing and examination of her own feelings about the darker-skinned members of her race that she suffered a deep depression and ultimately separated from her husband. She wrote The Black Notebooks, she notes in her introductory essay, not out of ``desire'' but to ``save [her] life.'' At her best, Derricotte is reminiscent of Nella Larsen, for whom ``passing'' was a primary topic, and Doris Lessing in The Golden Notebooks, which is also about avoiding breakdown through writing. Some pieces in the collection are less cohesive than others and are subsequently less impressive from an artistic standpoint than pieces with a strong overarching theme. Typical of the latter group are ``The Club,'' which concerns Derricotte's and her husband's sojourn in the white suburbs and the country club that they were never invited to join, and ``Diaries at an Artists' Colony,'' with its collection of reactions from fellow colonists to her revelation of her racial background. ``Blacks in the U.'' and ``Face to Face,'' on the other hand, are more disjointed, but their point is not lost: It's not easy to be a black person in either a racially divided country or a color-conscious black community. A very strong first prose offering on an always provocative subject. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-393-04544-7

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1997

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 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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