A remarkable feat of journalism.

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NINE LIVES

IN SEARCH OF THE SACRED IN MODERN INDIA

Illuminating biographies of Indians who retain ancient devotional traditions despite rapid economic change.

In a conscious reversal of the first-person method he employed in his book on Middle Eastern monks, From the Holy Mountain (1998), British journalist Dalrymple (The Last Mughal, 2006, etc.) allows these selected voices to speak for themselves—a tricky task, he writes, since the “interviews for this book took place in eight different languages.” His subjects hail from diverse backgrounds. A Jainist nun lives an ascetic life in the southern pilgrimage site of Stravanabelagola. She left her family, gave away her possessions, walks everywhere so that she won’t harm a living creature and now looks forward to the ultimate path toward Nirvana in sallekhana, or starving herself to death. “There is no distress or cruelty,” she says calmly. “As nuns our lives are peaceful, and giving up the body should also be peaceful.” A Tibetan Buddhist monk who lived through the persecution of the monasteries by the Chinese in the 1950s recounts his newfound attempt to achieve atonement for the violence he committed then in the name of preserving his faith. A prostitute in Saundatti, one of the legions of women consecrated in their youth by impoverished families to the service of the goddess Yellamma, describes her ghastly lot of entrenched illiteracy and almost-certain contraction of AIDS. An aged singer of 600-year-old epics performs his craft in Pabusar over five nights of dusk-to-dawn performances that function both as entertainment and devotional rite. A famous Sufi fakir at the Sehwan shrine in southern Pakistan dances a perilous line between Islam and Hinduism. Throughout the book, Dalrymple showcases his knowledge of the breadth of India and his fearless willingness to penetrate its sometimes unsavory nooks and crannies, rendering this a truly heartfelt work for readers craving a deeper connection to India and its rich spiritual heritage.

A remarkable feat of journalism.

Pub Date: June 17, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-27282-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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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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