A riveting view of a truly tragic childhood that will leave readers wanting more of the author’s story.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF AN AMERICAN ORPHAN

A debut memoir reconstructs the complex and volatile world of an orphanage in 1950s New York City.

At just 4 years old, James and five of his siblings were hurled into the Mount Loretto Staten Island orphanage. Instead of their unstable mother, the kids would now have a series of adult caretakers who alternated wildly among violence, exasperation, and kindness toward the screaming masses of children in their charge. James’ childhood was spent passing from one “house” to the next with each new birthday. His days were filled with rock fights, boxing matches, and futile attempts to escape the cruel torture of older “junior counselor” boys. James would also often venture into the city to see his older sister, June, and their mother. At one point, June even surprised him and his brother David by introducing them to their father. (“It never occurred to me whether I had a father or not,” James writes.) But no one in this family ever provided a real path to a more stable life. Even after leaving the city to live with his older brother Richard in Wyoming, James eventually found his way back to Mount Loretto and the grim realities of an impoverished existence in ’50s New York that awaited the orphanage’s former residents. Overall, James’ memoir focuses most on daily life in the orphanage. He concentrates on the interactions between children, delivering countless scenes of harrowing abuse as well as smaller moments, as when the siblings collectively dream of being rescued by a rich family even though they “all knew it was just a bunch of lies.” In this way, James renders Mount Loretto as a complicated and intriguing place; each adult and all the children introduced by name offer nearly equal moments of both tenderness and savagery. But the world outside the orphanage never feels as well developed. James offers glimpses of his post-orphanage life in ’50s Brooklyn and Spanish Harlem—but there is certainly a lot of room for him to further explore beyond Mount Loretto and its lasting effects.

A riveting view of a truly tragic childhood that will leave readers wanting more of the author’s story.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-60693-911-6

Page Count: 268

Publisher: Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency, LLC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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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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