Astute, hopeful and humane commentary.

COME HOME, AMERICA

THE RISE AND FALL (AND REDEEMING PROMISE) OF OUR COUNTRY

The Nation’s national affairs correspondent diagnoses America’s perilous state and calls for a rebirth of participatory democracy.

After nearly 40 years as a reporter and author of several books, Greider (The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy, 2003, etc.) has earned his reputation as a serious, thoughtful, albeit “uncredentialed” critic of our democracy. He has consistently warned about America’s trade deficits and national debt, our crumbling infrastructure and inadequate health-care system and a greedy and gluttonous capitalism unconcerned with equity and security. He has inveighed against a costly, overreaching militarism, environmental depredations and, most of all, against a deformed democracy where big business gives orders to governing elites hopelessly out of touch with the people they pretend to serve. It’s a left-leaning critique, closely approximated by the soundly rejected political campaigns of Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards and Ralph Nader. Greider’s moment, though, may have arrived. Given the current, gloomy circumstances, all neatly summarized here, it’s more difficult than ever to argue with his analysis, and he’s surely correct that “in crisis lies opportunity.” There are, he warns, wrenching changes ahead, changes too important to be left to the same stewards who’ve created the current debacle. Greider hopes that the anxious and angry electorate will attempt an end run around our “betters” to seize control from the current concentrations of power. With the times propitious and unprecedented organizing tools (the Internet, especially) readily available, the people may finally be sufficiently aroused—in the manner of the late 19th-century Populists and the early New Dealers—to demand accountability from a system that has failed them. If they do, historians may point to this book as one of the prairie fire’s first sparks.

Astute, hopeful and humane commentary.

Pub Date: March 17, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59486-816-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Rodale

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2009

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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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