Davis considers the Laffites to have been more entrepreneurs than pirates, ambitious but hapless, “men of temporal success...

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THE PIRATES LAFFITE

THE TREACHEROUS WORLD OF THE CORSAIRS OF THE GULF

Prolific historian Davis (Lone Star Rising, 2004, etc.), director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies, serves up a highly engaging chronicle of the brothers Laffite, anarchist princes of the early republic.

Pierre moved from France to the Caribbean at the beginning of the French Revolution, perhaps motivated by sympathy to the royalist cause but also sure that there was no living to be made in the old country. He traded in whatever yielded a profit, and he acquired a sophisticated geographical knowledge of the Gulf Coast that would serve him well. A dozen years Pierre’s junior, brother Jean Laffite had apparently been out at sea while Pierre set up shop in French Louisiana, but when they reunited he easily turned to a new trade, transporting and selling slaves. Their headquarters of Barataria, near New Orleans, soon sprouted a village of huts and shacks, and, with a commission from the independent republic of Cartagena in what is now Colombia, the brothers kept a flotilla of privateers busy raiding Spanish shipping throughout the Gulf. Such acts didn’t bother the American administration overmuch until about the time the War of 1812 broke out, when Jean offered the governor the privateers’ services against the British if the government would stop harassing them. “This plan was brilliant in its way,” Davis writes, for “in effect the Laffites were offering nothing,” inasmuch as their small fleet couldn’t do much against the British. Andrew Jackson was receptive all the same, and the privateers fought valiantly at the Battle of New Orleans. The glory days were yet to come, for Jean soon went to work for the Spanish crown and laundered slaves in Texas for an ambitious Jim Bowie, while Pierre busied himself in similarly illicit enterprises. Pierre died in 1822, Jean the following year, “at precisely the right moments,” for an independent Mexico and republican South America yielded a Spanish Main at peace and “a world they would not have known.”

Davis considers the Laffites to have been more entrepreneurs than pirates, ambitious but hapless, “men of temporal success but lifetime failure.” A splendid telling of their endlessly interesting tale.

Pub Date: May 2, 2005

ISBN: 0-15-100403-X

Page Count: 752

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2005

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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