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A brief biography of the turn-of-the-century anarchist once considered the “most dangerous woman in the world.”

Gornick (The Men in My Life, 2008, etc.) aptly condenses the life story of the fiery radical and presents a vivid snapshot of Gilded Age liberal activism. Born in 1869 in the Russian city of Kovno, Goldman immigrated to America with her sister in 1885 and landed in the wretched sweatshops of Rochester, N.Y. Goldman soon became enamored of the local hordes of social agitators, and she was captivated by the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago. Moving to Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Goldman fell in with a group of liberals, including the anarchist Alexander Berkman and newspaper editor Johann Most, who launched her speaking career. These were heady times for radicals both domestically and abroad. The American Socialist Party numbered more than 100,000 members in the first decade of the 20th century, and “Red Emma’s” fervid lectures were regularly attended by thousands. When Goldman was deported in 1919, she landed right in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution (and quickly became an early critic of the Bolsheviks). The idiosyncratic Goldman often ended up on the wrong side of history—e.g., she was a proponent of birth control but no friend to suffragists, and she remained obsessed with Spanish Civil War refugees when the rest of the world was turning its attention to Hitler and the Jews. But her undying belief that the personal is political would make her an important figure in radical politics more than a century after her birth. Such a slim volume necessarily glosses over details that would dramatize Goldman’s larger-than-life persona, but Gornick lucidly presents her subject’s significance within a fascinating historical moment.


Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-300-13726-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2011

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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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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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