A heartfelt biography of a Dutch concentration camp survivor that doesn’t fully live up to its extraordinary subject.

MY MOTHER'S WAR

THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY OF HOW A RESISTANCE FIGHTER SURVIVED THREE CONCENTRATION CAMPS

A daughter unearths her mother’s remarkable Holocaust story.

As a young woman, Taylor’s mother, Sabine Zuur, was a charming Dutch socialite who was madly in love with a pilot in the Royal Army. After her fiance left for a war from which he would never return, Sabine became involved in the Dutch resistance, helping to hide fellow resistance members in the Hague, where she lived at the time. “Sabine had an extensive and close-knit circle of friends, most of whom seemed determined to become involved with the Resistance, as was Sabine herself,” writes the author. “Like many others, she was strongly opposed to the ideals of the German Reich, and when an opportunity presented itself…to join the Resistance herself, she took it with both hands.” In 1943, Sabine was arrested and jailed in prisons in Amsterdam and Utrecht before being transferred to three different concentration camps: Amersfoort, Ravensbrück, and Mauthausen. During her time in the camps, Sabine both witnessed and endured unspeakable atrocities. She survived the final camp only because she caught the eye of a German prisoner whose chilling obsession with Sabine led him to care for her and several of her friends, including the doctor who would go on to deliver her two children when she was safely back at home in Holland. This riveting story is thoroughly researched and unsparingly frank about the cost of war. However, other than the letters she penned to her mother from two Dutch prisons, Sabine’s words are largely absent from the narrative, and the prose often lacks polish. Furthermore, Taylor defines Sabine primarly by her victimhood, providing readers with only hints of her life before the war, thereby creating a character that can feel both elusive and two-dimensional.

A heartfelt biography of a Dutch concentration camp survivor that doesn’t fully live up to its extraordinary subject.

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-369-72043-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Hanover Square Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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