Good bedside reading for history buffs.

PROFILES IN LEADERSHIP

HISTORIANS ON THE ELUSIVE QUALITY OF GREATNESS

Renowned historians describe the leadership secrets of presidents, generals, preachers, a baseball manager and others.

This bright anthology from the Society of American Historians gathers essays from top-flight historians—Sean Wilentz, David M. Kennedy, Jean Strouse, Alan Brinkley, David Levering Lewis, etc.—on the leadership skills of an array of Americans. As Isaacson (Einstein: His Life and Universe, 2007, etc.) notes in his introduction, a major theme is that the greatest challenge of leadership is knowing when to be pragmatic and when to adhere to principle, which is nicely illustrated by Brinkley’s piece contrasting Herbert Hoover as “a victim of his convictions” and Franklin Roosevelt as the experimenter. Kevin Baker shows how the celebrated baseball manager John Joseph McGraw shined as a master clubhouse psychologist. Evan Thomas points to Robert Kennedy’s insecurities as the source for his empathy for the downtrodden. David M. Kennedy finds that the ever-optimistic Dwight Eisenhower’s ability to elicit cooperation served him well at war and in the White House. Two pieces stand out, both on lesser-known historical figures. Frances FitzGerald vividly evokes the life of Charles Finney, an upstate New York evangelist of the 1800s, whose emotional preaching upset the established clergy and inspired temperance, abolition and other major reform movements. In a wonderful essay on Pauli Murray, an early civil-rights champion, Glenda Gilmore shows how this remarkable African-American—feminist, lawyer, poet, ordained Episcopalian priest and friend of Eleanor Roosevelt—relied on persistence and self-invention to become a powerful opponent of Jim Crow. Other essays cover Ulysses S. Grant, J.P. Morgan, Joseph (Chief of the Nez Perce Indians), W.E.B. Dubois and Wendell Willkie. In an analysis of leadership failures, Robert Dallek explains why our optimism over new presidents invariably leads to disappointment as they craft poor policies and stumble over foreign crises.

Good bedside reading for history buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-393-07655-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010

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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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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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