Caldwell’s fourth memoir sings. It’s a song for the ages, but it sounds especially resonant in the #MeToo era.

BRIGHT PRECIOUS THING

A MEMOIR

A glistening reflection on how the women’s movement profoundly influenced the Pulitzer Prize winner’s life.

Raised in the Texas Panhandle, “a stronghold of Protestant churches and Republican politics,” Caldwell knows her life could’ve easily played out differently. She began college at Texas Tech in 1968, just as the first wave of feminism caught fire. Then she transferred to the University of Texas, located in Austin, deemed the “the den of iniquity” by her mother. It was there, in that “countercultural hotbed,” that she attended her first women’s liberation rally. Though Caldwell was clearly never wired for Stepford life, she superbly demonstrates how the women’s movement was a beacon that led her to fully embrace her equality and autonomy. Not that these things were easily won. She suffered sexual harassment and assault as well as rape, and she had an illegal abortion in Mexico when she was 19. She confronted frequent sexism in academia and battled alcoholism (the latter features prominently in Caldwell’s bestselling memoir, Let’s Take the Long Way Home). Jumping from her childhood and young adulthood in Texas to her present life in Massachusetts, the author revisits a variety of seasons and scenarios, but the presence of feminism is always evident. “The women’s movement gave me a reclamation of self I had found nowhere else,” she writes, “and I don’t like imagining my life without it.” Caldwell pays tribute to some of the men in her life, including her father, her therapist, and her longtime AA buddies, and her love of dogs is also readily apparent. One of the unexpected driving forces of the narrative is an ambrosial, 5-year-old girl named Tyler, a neighbor who seems to effortlessly embody the feminist ideals the author has spent decades cultivating.

Caldwell’s fourth memoir sings. It’s a song for the ages, but it sounds especially resonant in the #MeToo era.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51005-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 7, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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 deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

LIBERALISM AND ITS DISCONTENTS

The renowned political scientist and philosopher considers classical liberalism and the broad range of enemies arrayed against it.

“By ‘liberalism,’ ” writes Fukuyama, “I refer to the doctrine…that argued for the limitation of the powers of governments through law and ultimately constitutions, creating institutions protecting the rights of individuals living under their jurisdiction.” Born of events such as the English civil war and the Enlightenment, this liberalism also encouraged diversity of thought, religion, and ethnicity, placing it squarely in the crosshairs of today’s authoritarian nationalists, not least Donald Trump. Fukuyama has often been identified with conservative causes, but his thinking here is democratic to the core, and he has no use for such pathetic lies as Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen. That said, the author notes that liberalism has many enemies on both the left and the right for numerous real yet correctable failings. The neoliberalism that has emerged over the past couple of generations has accelerated inequality, and numerous institutions have been eroded while others, such as the Electoral College, have been revealed to be anti-democratic. Both left and right, the author argues, have trouble accepting that governing over diversity, the hallmark of liberalism, means governing over many ethnic and national groups, strata of income, and competing interests. He adds, however, “Left-of-center voters…remain much more diverse” in political outlook. Essential to a liberal society, Fukuyama insists, is the right to vote: “Voting rights are fundamental rights that need to be defended by the power of the national government.” While he insists that individual rights take precedence over group rights, he also observes that the social contract demands citizen participation. To the conservative charge that the social contract is one thing but the “common moral horizon” another, he answers that yes, liberalism does not insist on a single morality—which “is indeed a feature and not a bug.”

A deceptively slender but rich argument in favor of conserving liberal ideals—and liberal government.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60671-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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