A strikingly vivid account of the impact of connection on this family and others.

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ALL THAT SHE CARRIED

THE JOURNEY OF ASHLEY'S SACK, A BLACK FAMILY KEEPSAKE

A professor of history at Harvard chronicles the historical journey of an embroidered cotton sack, beginning with the enslaved woman who gave it to her 9-year-old daughter in the 1850s.

In this brilliant and compassionate account, Miles uses “an artifact with a cat's nine lives” to tell “a quiet story of transformative love lived and told by ordinary African American women—Rose, Ashley, and Ruth—whose lives spanned the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, slavery and freedom, the South and the North.” The sack, originally used for grain or seeds, was passed from Rose to her daughter Ashley in 1852, when Ashley was put on the auction block, and passed by Ashley to her granddaughter, Ruth Middleton. In the early 1920s, Ruth embroidered its history on it, including its contents: “a tattered dress 3 handfulls of pecans a braid of Roses hair,” also “filled my Love always.” The sack is now on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Like those of most enslaved people, the stories of Rose and Ashley are largely lost to history, but Miles carefully unravels the records and makes a credible case that they may have been the property of Robert Martin in coastal South Carolina. From there, the author moves outward to sensitively establish the context in which the two managed to survive, describing how South Carolina became “a place where the sale of a colored child was not only possible but probable.” By the time Miles gets to Ruth, the historical record is more substantial. Married and pregnant at 16, Ruth moved from the South to Philadelphia around 1920 and eventually became “a regular figure in the Black society pages.” With careful historical examination as well as empathetic imagination, Miles effectively demonstrates the dignity and mystery of lives that history often neglects and opens the door to the examination of many untold stories.

A strikingly vivid account of the impact of connection on this family and others.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984854-99-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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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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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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