The premise has the potential to pull together a wide range of responses to the first battles of the Revolution, but slick,...

THE DAY THE REVOLUTION BEGAN

19 APRIL 1775

A brisk, lightweight overview of the beginnings of the American Revolution, tracing the reactions of patriots and loyalists as news of the Battles of Lexington and Concord traveled from Boston through New York and Philadelphia to the southern states and abroad.

The text zigzags awkwardly between reporting of the battles themselves and the progress of the news, and extended flashbacks and flash-forwards to future events create an anthology of anecdotes rather than a synthesis. The narrative thread is overwhelmed by descriptions of major and minor participants in the action. Hallahan (Misfire, 1994) conscientiously studs his descriptions with striking details—Daniel Leonard’s gold-trimmed cloak, John Hancock’s ravenous appetite—but the parade of brief, stereotypical sketches inevitably palls without the evocation of a larger context. The description of the arrival of the news in New York has some flair, conveying the frantic scrambles of the city’s Loyalist aristocrats, and the “Philadelphia” chapter offers memorable vignettes of women who claimed the Revolution as their own cause. That chapter also reflects Pennsylvania’s religious diversity, but African-Americans and the substantial number of non-British immigrants get short shrift throughout. Instead, Hallahan recapitulates already-familiar material, such as George Washington’s competition with Charles Lee for the command of the Continental Army, and the delivery of Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech at the Second Virginia Convention earlier in 1775. Discussions of major figures are marred by sweeping, unsupportable pronouncements (such as Hallahan’s claim that Samuel Adams “invented the art of revolution”). The last chapter offers follow-up information on the major characters; a useful appendix lists “Drumbeats toward Revolution” from 1760 to 1775.

The premise has the potential to pull together a wide range of responses to the first battles of the Revolution, but slick, simplistic prose and one-dimensional characterizations create the flat effect of advertising copy, not the complexity and texture of history. (illustrations)

Pub Date: April 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-380-97616-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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