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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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