RAIN OF GOLD

A writer of Mexican-American heritage (Jury, 1977) tells the engrossing saga of his family's immigration to, and subsequent life in, California in the wake of the Mexican revolution. A sort of Hispanic Roots, the book focuses on three generations as they struggle with poverty and prejudice, love and life. When Villasenor was first contracted to write Rain of Gold, it was to be a ``major'' work of fiction. As he began interviewing his relatives for background material, however, he realized that there was a much more important story to tell: the nonfiction account of his family's history. Unable to convince his publisher to go along with his new plans, Villasenor gave back his $75,000 advance, took a $1,500 advance from a lesser-known house, and set about writing ``a history of a people—a tribal heritage, if you will—of my Indian-European culture as handed down to me....'' It was a brave and rewarding decision. From beginning to end, the chronicle is filled with one remarkable story after another. All have the simple warmhearted quality of family tales told around the kitchen table, yet all are eminently believable. Many episodes have to do with overcoming hardships: A daughter is brutally raped and goes blind; a proud mother is forced to become a beggar to support her children; a son admits to a murder he didn't commit in order to collect money for his family. Others deal with love and God and the ``meaning of life.'' The book is heavy-handed and sketchy at times, and bogs down in the second half, but, overall, it's a page-turner. Perhaps not the definitive Hispanic family epic, but an inspiring, fast-paced tale with a simple, fable-like quality that's often surprisingly moving.

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 1991

ISBN: 1-55885-030-9

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Arte Público

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1991

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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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