Wood is no Studs Terkel, and her book is less a structured oral history than a collection of anecdotes. Still, her subjects...

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WHAT WAS ASKED OF US

AN ORAL HISTORY OF THE IRAQ WAR BY THE SOLDIERS WHO FOUGHT IT

If there were ever the opposite of a “good war,” in the Studs Terkelian sense, Iraq is it. So the veterans interviewed by journalist Wood tell us.

Though early on she quotes the observation of war correspondent Evan Wright—who has actually been on the ground in Iraq—that the present generation of GIs is a cynical one that believes that “the Big Lie is as central to American governance as taxation,” Wood does not completely prepare the reader for the bitterness and despair that many of her subjects report. One soldier, believing that Iraqi civilians knew of an ambush against his unit—“People fucking knew”—recalls shooting a woman who was cowering behind a tree, apparently just to vent his anger. Other soldiers, incensed by suicide bombs, thirst for payback; all it takes is one explosion to turn soldiers who were “young and innocent and just new cherries” into grim avengers. Wood’s subjects report from all areas of the battle, though for whatever reason, many of them saw duty in “mortuary affairs” units. Though sometimes their accounts are lighthearted, as when Marines compete to use items from a word-of-the-day calendar “in a sentence to the highest-ranking officer [they] could get to,” most are somber tales of friends lost and innocents dead, full of searching questions about the meaning of it all. Several voice the view that the U.S. is in Iraq for the oil, and that the Iraqi insurgence is completely understandable: “If I was held oppressed by the white infidel invader,” says one soldier, “I would be out on the street with every one of them.” Says another, “Five good American kids just died. What the fuck was this for? I hope Bush is happy.”

Wood is no Studs Terkel, and her book is less a structured oral history than a collection of anecdotes. Still, her subjects offer important testimony on a bad scene that promises only to get worse.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-01670-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2006

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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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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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