Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Briefly Noted

Bobby Kennedy, by Larry Tye (Random House). Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, during a Presidential campaign premised on ending the war in Vietnam and stepping up the War on Poverty. Yet, as this provocative biography reveals, he was not always a champion of peace and social justice. The son of one of America's last robber barons, he launched his political career as a protege of the ultraconservative senator Joseph McCarthy; he went on to clash with the Teamsters, plot the sabotage of farmland in Cuba, and authorize a wiretap on Martin Luther King, Jr. Tye, drawing on fifty-eight boxes of private papers that the Kennedy family had kept under lock for four decades, expertly traces the arc of his subject's metamorphosis "from cold warrior to liberal icon."

We Are Not Such Things, by Justine van der Leun (Spiegel & Grau). In 1993, Amy Biehl, a young American scholar mistaken for an Afrikaner, was murdered outside Cape Town amid chants of "One settler, one bullet." After the killers were granted amnesty, Amy's parents employed and befriended two of them. Fascinated by such radical forgiveness, Leun probes the characterization of Biehl as a martyr to the cause of black South African liberation, and examines the murder, the trials, and the afterlives of witnesses, detectives, and the accused. She displays exquisite insights into the inner lives of those involved, the erasure of shameful histories, and the stresses of absolution without accountability. Amazed at the poise of Amy's mother, Leun wonders, "What kind of a mother doesn't wail once in a while? …

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