THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD

WHAT WE LOST IN THE GREAT SUBURBAN MIGRATION, 1966--1999

A fairly sophisticated description of the problem of urban flight from America’s largest cities over the last three decades. Suarez, noted radio journalist and host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, is interested in providing what he terms a “dry-eyed” reevaluation of the suburban migration that has left our cities in their relatively impoverished condition today. Deftly juxtaposing statistical analysis, government reports, and personal oral narratives, he retells the story of urban flight to include the more malignant aspects of the phenomenon, which are often downplayed in accounts of how our older cities got into the “mess” we perceive them to be in. He foregrounds race as one of the primary factors in the migration by noting that the fastest-growing urban areas are precisely those which are becoming the whitest. He also views the unwillingness of many churches to take a more active role in saving neighborhoods, and the union-busting potential of relocating urban industrial activities to the suburbs, as contributors to the population drain from our largest cities. Many efforts at reform seem to exacerbate the situation—property tax abatements to draw young professionals into urban residential neighborhoods may impoverish local public schools, for example. Complicity between insurance companies, mortgage bankers, and investment firms to avoid doing business in minority neighborhoods also frustrates efforts at revitalization. Conversion of public housing projects into smaller, lower-impact, more widely dispersed units seems to be one of the few feasible alternatives to help ameliorate the situation. While Suarez bemoans the homogeneous suburban sprawl that has resulted from the migration and its tendency to isolate its inhabitants in an automobile culture, he doesn—t really offer useful suggestions for facilitating a return to the coherence and stability of the postwar urban residential community. Well done, but it’s a shame Suarez doesn’t match his narrative of loss with potential scenarios for recuperation.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-83402-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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