A well-crafted, constantly revealing study of the world-altering changes of recent history.



A sturdy examination of events that led to the collapse of Eastern Europe’s communist regimes.

The “classic narrative,” writes former Evening Standard reporter Sebestyen (Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, 2006, etc.), of the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War lays huge credit at the door of Ronald Reagan. Humbug, he replies. The United States and its allies won the Cold War because of a policy of containment that had stretched out for four decades. Reagan accomplished nothing toward that end until, in his second term, he relaxed his bellicose attitude and “tried a new, more conciliatory approach” that led to meetings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. If anything, to judge by Sebestyen’s episodic, skillfully narrated account, Gorbachev deserves more acknowledgment than ever for his work in dismantling the Soviet Union. Though that may not have been his intention, his decision not to meet with the faltering leaders of Bulgaria and Romania and to keep Soviet troops off the streets of East Germany and Czechoslovakia made it easier for the revolutions there to gather force. Polish-born pontiff John Paul II was another architect of those great revolutions, as Soviet leader Yuri Andropov presciently warned when he predicted that the pope’s election “could foreshadow disaster for the Soviet empire.” Indeed it did, and so quickly did those revolutions unfold—ten years in the case of Poland, as it was said at the time, but only ten days for Czechoslovakia—that it was the leaders of the West, notably George H.W. Bush, who found themselves supporting the Soviets and advising Soviet leaders that they would look the other way were the Brezhnev doctrine to be invoked. Sebestyen’s book contains all the familiar cast of characters, including Dick Cheney (who predicted that Gorbachev would be ousted by a strong-arm communist leader), Brent Scowcroft and Condoleezza Rice.

A well-crafted, constantly revealing study of the world-altering changes of recent history.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-375-42532-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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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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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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