Fires in the Mirror
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Fires in the Mirror

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  639 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Derived from interviews with a wide range ofpeople who experienced or observed New York's 1991Crown Heights racial riots, Fires In TheMirror is as distinguished a work ofcommentary on current Black-White tensions as it is awork of drama....more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 1st 1993 by Anchor (first published 1993)
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Elliot Ratzman
You should watch Smith’s one-woman play, runner-up for a Pulitzer for Drama, on YouTube. Smith interviewed Caribbean and Hasidic residents of Crown Heights, Brooklyn shortly after the tragedy of August 1991. Every speaker is an unreliable narrator, filled with prejudice, rage and conspiracy theory. A car accident involving the Chabad Rebbe’s entourage kills a young black boy, Gavin Cato. The days of riots that ensue, enflamed by ethnic tensions and rabble-rousers, results in the stabbing death o...more
Andrew Sullar
The author depicts hate crimes committed by African Americans against Jews as a situation where "misunderstandings" and "cultural differences are the cause? I've never heard someone of African American decent refer to hate crimes against black folks in a similar manner, have you? Why doesn't she write books that document hate crimes against African Americans in a similar manner? She also neglects to mention that Black on Jewish violent crime was rampant before this incident, but not visa versa....more
Andrew Sullar
The author depicts hate crimes committed by African Americans against Jews as a situation where "misunderstandings" and "cultural differences are the cause? I've never heard someone of African American decent refer to hate crimes against black folks in a similar manner, have you? Why doesn't she write books that document hate crimes against African Americans in a similar manner? She also neglects to mention that Black on Jewish violent crime was rampant before this incident, but not visa versa....more
WaiThain
I did not find this book interesting because the monologues are too one-sided. Through the monologues, most interviewees say that they try to understand people of different races but it is hard because of cultural differences. At the same time, people choose to remain the way they are and not to share themselves with others. For instance, in “Static”, the Lubavitcher woman did not explain why she could not turn off the radio, and this creates misunderstanding for the black boy who helped her. In...more
Benewaa
Anna Deaveree Smith's goal for this book was to get the inside story from both the black community and the Jewish community. This book was inspired by the 1992 riot in Brooklyn regarding a black boy who died in a car accident. The community describes the driver of the car ridiculous and also he was speeding. This car accident sparked a riot between the Hasidic Jewish community and the Black community because both communities felt betrayed and they also associated this with racism and their pass...more
Rinchen
I enjoyed reading this book because it was talking about an actual event that had occurred in the past, in this city. What i liked most about it was that since it was a monologue, it had the opinions of so many people that you really start to understand the issue and how it affected everyone.
one quote that i thought was very strong from the book was "Those in the margins are always trying to get to the center and those at the center, frequently in the name of tradition are trying to keep the ma...more
Qi Yin
Dec 08, 2008 Qi Yin rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everybody
Recommended to Qi Yin by: school
Fires in the Mirror by Anna Deavere Smith uses monologues to retell the Crown Height Riots. Anna Deavere Smith interviews various people who are directly and indirectly involved in the Crown Height neighborhood. Smith tries to reveal both Black and Jewish view of the event and the truth of the Crown Height incident that happened where a little Black boy was killed by a car; and a Jewish man was stabbed and died.
Anna Deavere Smith has a lot of opposing side of the event where a Black person has...more
David
I understand that the play, in which one actress takes on the roles of a dozen or so people - Black, Jewish, and otherwise - affected by the Crown Heights riots, is an impressive piece of theatrical art. Just reading the monologues here, however, didn't do much for me. For one, the formatting is bizarre, with frequent line breaks like poetry that really interrupted my sense of a real character speaking. For another, although I really do recognize the author's attempt to create a "Rashamon" style...more
Dylan Suher
With plays like this, it's almost a waste of time to print them: the script is only the barest of hints at what the play might actually be as performed. I would very much like to see it performed. Fascinating exploration into the roles we play in American society. The Crown Heights Riots are almost beside the point (for better or worse), used here like a particle accelerator: as an uncomfortable high-velocity confrontation that, as the characters struggle to come to terms with what they mean, yo...more
Efrain
I hated reading this book too, in fact, this one was worst than Twilight. It was the first play that I've read consisting of ONLY monologues which i very much appreciate, but by page forty the I had realized, along with the whole class, that I had just read 40 pages of different people saying the same thing about the same subject over and over again. It was dreadful and tedious to go on. I would have loved to have seen the rest of the play performed by Smith because she did a good job performing...more
Lashai
This was another book that my friend recommended. Overall i think the book was was okay. When the book was describing the setting, it sort of reminded me of New York City with the imagery and the main races that live in the neighborhood. As for the conflict in the story, i think it interesting. The conflict between the blacks and the jews is very relatable, because in this world, there is a lot of racial tension between races. From this book i leaned that even the smallest things that happen can...more
Rani
What she said in the preface resonated such a profound truth for me about the rhythm of a character's speech, about letting the character enter you instead of forcing yourself onto a character. I lived very near this neighborhood recently after the incidents described, I recognized the ethnic tensions. I was very moved by the collection of all the perspectives. I felt for each individual that was represented. Brilliant and profound artistry about challenging subject matter that challenges the re...more
Tatiana
it feel like something's missing from this. it didn't seem to have the oomph of 'twilight: los angeles'. perhaps because these pieces dealt much more with day-to-day living and seemingly arbitrary anecdotes than everything underlying the riots. unlike 'twilight', where i felt i gained so much more insight into what i already knew or didn't know about the LA riots, 'fires in the mirror' felt overshadowed by what i've already read by Patricia Williams on the subject.
Abbie
Er, okay, so I didn't read all of it exactly. And I feel VERY bad about that.

But we watched a lot if it in English Class, and I did read a LOT of it, it's just... I don't know. I adore Anna Deveare Smith (Wingnut since '04 - when I was a small child - woot, woot!) but eh... it gets a bit repetitive, you know?

I do think it's a fascinating medium though, and the Crown Heights Riots are definitely something more people should know about.
Andrea
Don't think I would have read this if it were not for a class requirement. However the different perspectives between the Hassidic Jews and Black population of Crown Heights were interesting. I wish she would have included some type of factual information to contrast the "truth" of the matter with the different opinions and perspectives of the accident. But the fact that Anna Deavere Smith kept the interviews as raw as possible was a nice touch.
Anna-Lisa
Aug 07, 2012 Anna-Lisa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers interested in biographies
A mind-blowing insight into the world of Black and Jewish people living in America. Based on the Crown Hights riots which were caused by a car accident in which a Black child came to death and by the stabbing of a Jewish student the same day, Anna Deavere Smiths draws a portrait of people involved and/or affected by the happenings in August 1991. The play is based on the interviews given by these people. A highly recommended read!
Charles
This book is fascinating. Smith's introduction illuminates her project in such an interesting way. It is nice to have the transcription and or script of the performance. The material is much more powerful if you can see Smith's performance of it. Sill also has something to add. This can be considered a very controversial work but It is a thought provoking and worth while work.
Mick
Deavere-Smith is one of my favorite play-wrights, as well as actresses. This text is jarring, thought-provoking, and just plain stunning. I will definitely be considering this while writing my dissertation; her depictions of racial, gender, and cultural differences are fascinating, without providing answers.
Julia
more accurately, 3.5. I enjoyed reading this, but it pales in comparison to seeing it performed live. I saw her perform 2 of these pieces last year and it was amazing.
Rebecca
Jan 12, 2008 Rebecca added it
Recommends it for: Politically-minded-east-coasters
i would also recommend this book to those in the theater but they've probably already read it. This was interesting but not mind-blowing. I like reading plays because they go fast, and since this one is sort of about Jewish identity I can sort of pretend I'm doing research. Sort of.
Michele
I didn't realize these are the characters from Anna Deavere Smith's show about the awful riots/killings in Crown Heights, 1991. I know I'd be sucked in seeing it live, but reading it was hard to get into. I'm really glad I learned of this incident, I had no idea this happened.
Juliette
I read this for a theatre class at The University of Minnesota. It was powerful and exciting-a female playwright/actress/activist and her work as an entire unit (script analysis, scene study, dramaturgy, contemporary issues, comparative literature and cultural studies).
Kevin2
Jun 16, 2009 Kevin2 added it
i thought this book was ok because it has a lot of information and "interviews" about segregation. i thought this book was mostly about the people venting out and speaking about their opinions about this subject and not enough facts.
Anna
I read this in a college English class. I thought it was a really cool and unique way to document different perspectives on a major racial/cultural conflict that was pretty overlooked by the media.
Stephanie
the real genius in this work is seeing it performed. as a read, it's well compiled and cleverly scaffolded, if a little difficult to imagine.
Brett
the concept of this performance piece is phenomenal and the words, words from real people, ring with more poetry than most novels.
Chris
It's better to see Smith in person than read her plays or watch videorecordings.
Rachel
Wasn't too impressed.
Kelly
Starting early on a paper.
Erin
An amazing play!!
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Anna Deavere Smith (born September 18, 1950) is an American actress, playwright, and professor. She is currently the artist in residence at the Center for American Progress. Smith is widely known for her roles as National Security Advisor Nancy McNally in The West Wing and as Hospital Administrator Gloria Akalitus in the Showtime series Nurse Jackie. She is a recipient of The Dorothy and Lillian G...more
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