Not without flaws but an important addition to American history nonetheless.

SECRET CITY

THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF GAY WASHINGTON

A comprehensive history of key political power struggles and controversies of the past century, focused on those Americans “whose obscurity was the consequence of their being forced to hide.”

In this absorbing and well-documented book, Kirchick, author of The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age, engagingly draws attention to a variety of gay histories that have been largely lost to mainstream history. At the same time, he shows how Americans’ deep-seated fear of homosexuality was often amplified by political leaders. “Nothing posed a more potent threat to a political career, or exerted a more fearsome grip on the nation’s collective psyche, than the love expressed between people of the same sex,” writes the author. “While America fought fascism, political and cultural leaders associated [homosexuality] with the nation’s Nazi enemies. During the Cold War, voices from across the political spectrum linked it with communism.” Kirchick diligently tracks each presidential administration from Franklin Roosevelt through Bill Clinton. The author discusses the sexual scandal that would force Sumner Welles, FDR’s undersecretary of state, out of office; the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic during the Reagan and Bush administrations; and the policies of the Clinton administration, which were more open-minded despite the ill-advised “don’t-ask, don’t-tell” policy. Throughout, Kirchick sheds light on the stories of several individuals whose efforts bravely contributed to gradual acceptance and an expansion of opportunities for gay Americans, including civil rights organizer Bayard Rustin and John Ford, Reagan’s deputy assistant agriculture secretary. While ambitious and convincing, the narrative goes slack in certain areas; some readers may get the sense that the book would have been better presented as a multivolume history, affording Kirchick the opportunity to examine specific elements without losing momentum. In particular, the early chapters—about how the fear of homosexuality became entangled with the fear of communist influence—are worth further study. Though overlong, the book offers countless illuminating stories that have been grossly underserved in past political histories. The author also includes a “historical map of gay Washington” and a cast of characters.

Not without flaws but an important addition to American history nonetheless.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-62779-232-5

Page Count: 816

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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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 concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

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ON JUNETEENTH

The Harvard historian and Texas native demonstrates what the holiday means to her and to the rest of the nation.

Initially celebrated primarily by Black Texans, Juneteenth refers to June 19, 1865, when a Union general arrived in Galveston to proclaim the end of slavery with the defeat of the Confederacy. If only history were that simple. In her latest, Gordon-Reed, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, National Book Award, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and numerous other honors, describes how Whites raged and committed violence against celebratory Blacks as racism in Texas and across the country continued to spread through segregation, Jim Crow laws, and separate-but-equal rationalizations. As Gordon-Reed amply shows in this smooth combination of memoir, essay, and history, such racism is by no means a thing of the past, even as Juneteenth has come to be celebrated by all of Texas and throughout the U.S. The Galveston announcement, notes the author, came well after the Emancipation Proclamation but before the ratification of the 13th Amendment. Though Gordon-Reed writes fondly of her native state, especially the strong familial ties and sense of community, she acknowledges her challenges as a woman of color in a state where “the image of Texas has a gender and a race: “Texas is a White man.” The author astutely explores “what that means for everyone who lives in Texas and is not a White man.” With all of its diversity and geographic expanse, Texas also has a singular history—as part of Mexico, as its own republic from 1836 to 1846, and as a place that “has connections to people of African descent that go back centuries.” All of this provides context for the uniqueness of this historical moment, which Gordon-Reed explores with her characteristic rigor and insight.

A concise personal and scholarly history that avoids academic jargon as it illuminates emotional truths.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63149-883-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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