A highly readable, elucidating narrative that investigates all the layers of a traumatic history.



The complex history behind the recent discovery of the last known slave ship to convey Africans to the U.S. before the Civil War.

In 2019, environmental journalist Raines, who lives in Alabama, helped unearth from the muddy delta outside Mobile the sunken remains of the schooner Clotilda, which made its infamous run to the west coast of Africa in July 1860 and returned carrying 110 slaves. “This is the story of that ship,” writes the author, “the people shaped by her complex legacy, and the healing that began on both sides of the Atlantic when her wooden carcass finally came to the surface.” Although importing Africans for slavery had been illegal since 1807, the cost of cotton had skyrocketed, and the South desperately needed cheap labor. Timothy Meaher, the racist Alabama steamboat captain who organized the Clotilda’s voyage, acted partly out of a bet, partly to make a fortune from human cargo, but mostly to defy federal enforcers. Raines weaves an impressively multilayered story, building on some of the information he provided in his previous book, Saving America’s Amazon(2020). The author discusses the reckless slave-owning Southern aristocracy and the brutal slave-capturing and -running Kingdom of Dahomey (now Benin), which “may have been responsible for capturing and deporting about 30 percent of all the Africans sold into bondage worldwide between 1600 and the 1880s.” Raines also focuses on the resilient community of Africatown, which the survivors of the Clotildacreated outside of Mobile in the aftermath of the war. Sadly, the survivors could not raise the money to fund their return to Africa, but their town thrived, and they forged a community on their own terms. Raines should be commended for his dogged journalistic work locating the sunken ship, which the owners tried to destroy, as well as the descendants of those original enslaved Africans.

A highly readable, elucidating narrative that investigates all the layers of a traumatic history.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982136-04-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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

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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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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.


Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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