With fascinating period detail and skillful writing, the author highlights his subject’s considerable appeal and symbolic...

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THE LONGEST FIGHT

IN THE RING WITH JOE GANS, BOXING'S FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN CHAMPION

A veteran sports journalist rehearses the story of Joe Gans (1874–1910), who in 1906 won a titanic 42-round boxing match, lasting nearly three hours, against a bruising white boxer.

Gildea (Where the Game Matters Most: A Last Championship Season in Indiana High School Basketball, 1997, etc.), who wrote for the Washington Post for 40 years, begins and ends with the flickering footage of the fight now residing in the Library of Congress. The author devotes more than half of the text to an account of the fight with Oscar “Battling” Nelson in Goldfield, Nev., though he continually cuts away to tell about Gans’ background, his several wives, the era’s virulent racism, other fights and fighters, the history of Goldfield and numerous other asides intended both to provide context and increase suspense. Nelson emerges as a particularly crude specimen, so much so that the huge crowd—virtually all white—rooted enthusiastically for Gans and offered no protests when the referee awarded the victory to Gans because of a low blow; Nelson had been head-butting and committing other fouls throughout. (His gutter racism outside the ring was no improvement.) Whites in the East and South promptly terrorized blacks. The final section deals with Gans' post-fight celebrity and wealth and with his intransigent refusal to retire, even while tuberculosis was ravaging his body. The final scenes—the fading Gans trying to get home from Arizona to die—are moving. Writers Rex Beach and Jack London have cameos, as do other notables, and the author wonders if George Bellows might have used Gans as the model for the black fighter in Both Members of This Club.

With fascinating period detail and skillful writing, the author highlights his subject’s considerable appeal and symbolic significance but speaks a bit too gently about his flaws.

Pub Date: June 26, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-374-28097-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2012

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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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