McFeely, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his biography of President Grant (1981) and acclaim for his more recent biography of Frederick Douglass (1991), offers a slender ``meditation on race'' in this resonant study of the people of Sapelo Island. McFeely returned to this barrier island off the Georgia coast for the 125th anniversary of its First African Baptist Church, and his visit engenders a series of ruminations and the recounting of a lot of island history. The island's population consists entirely of the descendants of slaves, living in the village of Hog Hammock. Thanks to a genealogist hired by the state, Mae Ruth Green, their family lines are fully charted, enriching family lore with fact. So when McFeely goes to Behavior, the island cemetery, looking for Bilali, the Muslim slave and slave driver who was one of the island's first inhabitants, he is also looking for the great-great- great grandfather of Allen Green, a basketmaker of great skill who has become the author's friend. Using the island's geography as a Proustian prod, McFeely traces its history in quick, bold strokes, from slavery through the Civil War, with its promise of liberation, and Reconstruction, with its all-too-brief taste of self- determination. Finally, he writes movingly of the need to preserve not only the island, but the community that lives on it, of the comfort that he, a white, New York-born academic, finds among its black Southern inhabitants. One might even say of the book what McFeely says of the cemetery: ``There is...abundant evidence in the names and dates on the gravestones of the connectedness of people, of the continuity of life.'' Although his intentions are avowedly modest, McFeely has crafted a beautiful, often poignant essay on this small community, a book that does credit to his subject and to its author. Highly recommended. (Author tour)

Pub Date: June 13, 1994

ISBN: 0-393-03643-X

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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