Short but persuasive commentaries on a diversity of topics from a respected scholar of humanity.

FALLEN LEAVES

LAST WORDS ON LIFE, LOVE, WAR AND GOD

Final messages of wisdom from a well-known scholar.

Throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were hints that Durant, author of the 11-volume The Story of Civilization, was writing a compilation of personal thoughts on a variety of topics. Yet no one had seen the manuscript, and after Durant’s death in 1981, the topic was dropped. It was only by chance that the manuscript was found, when his granddaughter moved and discovered the piece in a box. In the preface, which was written at the age of 95, Durant writes, “Please do not expect any new system of philosophy, nor any world-shaking cogitations; these will be human confessions, not divine revelations; they are micro- or mini-essays whose only dignity lies in their subjects rather than in their profundity or their size.” Those are modest words for a man who explores the profundity of being human, whether that means examining an infant's first moments of life, why religion has such a strong influence in so many people's lives or why racism is still prevalent in the United States. Durant also meditates on world governments and why we grow more conservative as we age, offers his opinions on sex and morality, and sings “a hymn in praise of women.” While some of the thoughts are dated due to the time in which they were written, or might seem a bit extreme—e.g., the idea to “make parentage a privilege and not a right. No one has the right to bring a child into the community without having passed tests of physical and mental fitness to breed”—his philosophical views are eye-opening and offer readers a chance to re-examine their own feelings regarding the human race and what it has and has not managed to accomplish in its short stint on Earth.

Short but persuasive commentaries on a diversity of topics from a respected scholar of humanity.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1476771540

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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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 Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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