Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fires in the Mirror” as Want to Read:
Fires in the Mirror
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fires in the Mirror

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  788 Ratings  ·  37 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)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fires in the Mirror, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Fires in the Mirror

The Horse's Mouth by Joyce CaryA Division of the Spoils by Paul ScottThe Day of the Scorpion by Paul ScottThe Best of Saki by SakiThe Towers of Silence by Paul Scott
REALLY Underrated Books (Fewer than 1,000 Ratings)
96th out of 2,984 books — 1,222 voters
A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Crucible by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
121st out of 189 books — 278 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,245)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Apr 07, 2015 Janaya rated it it was amazing
I had no idea that this happened until I read the book. The collection presents many perspectives, which are familiar to me as being an African American with family members who hold similar thoughts about non-black people. But it was nice to see the Jewish perspective the events at hand. I could understand both sides frustration but what I think the essential issue of the two was is that they both have a history of being shunned by those outside of their groups. Yet, Jewish people were (are) mor ...more
Jan 30, 2015 Sally rated it really liked it
I went to work at NY City Hall not long after the Crown Heights Riots and I had seen Anna Deavere Smith perform on PBS - but that was years ago.

So I read this knowing many of the players at least in passing. This invoked all the pain and fear that I'd seen, albeit after the fact, all the anger, the thoughtful, caring people who wanted to learn from it, the angry people who wanted to justify it, and most of all the confused, sad people who had shared this neighborhood until one horrible day.

I th
Jessica Barkl
Sep 01, 2014 Jessica Barkl rated it it was amazing
I read this play, originally, in, I think, in the summer of 1997, when I was a student at Cornish College of the Arts. I really liked Anna's introduction, and have used much of her advice in regards to how I build characters. I have also taught this play and her other race riot play, TWILIGHT in my Intercultural Communications class. I make the students perform one of the monologues in our study of dual perspective. I taught these plays at the main campus of Walla Walla Community College and the ...more
Elliot Ratzman
Dec 03, 2011 Elliot Ratzman rated it really liked it
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
Feb 12, 2011 Andrew Sullar rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2011 Andrew Sullar rated it did not like it
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
Jan 25, 2009 WaiThain rated it did not like it
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
Jan 29, 2009 Benewaa rated it really liked it
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
Jun 13, 2009 Rinchen rated it liked it
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
Qi Yin
Dec 08, 2008 Qi Yin rated it liked it
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
Sep 01, 2008 David rated it it was ok
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
Beth Turner
Jun 15, 2015 Beth Turner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thought-provoking and sobering read. Smith chooses her excerpts wisely to capture the raw emotions and thoughts of these people. And although her work covers an event of 1991, it is still applicable today. As I read, I was constantly reminded of the race issues of today. Definitely worth the read.
Dec 13, 2015 Andrew rated it liked it
Required reading for English in University of Alberta.

A bit dry at times, but provides interesting monologues of African Americans and the Jewish community. The book was recommended as a supplement to expand upon the white-centric feminist literature.
Jan 27, 2015 Kylie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: school-reading
Wonderful, wonderful work. I loved the order the sections were put in- especially when two conflicting accounts were put together. I have the pleasure of watching this in a theatre class tomorrow, and I'm quite excited.
Dylan Suher
Feb 16, 2013 Dylan Suher rated it liked it
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
Jan 07, 2015 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, teaching
Wow. My mind has been opened to this way of storytelling. Very excited to do similar work with a teacher and students at my school.
Jan 30, 2009 Efrain rated it did not like it
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
Jan 28, 2009 Lashai rated it liked it
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
Jul 29, 2011 Rani rated it really liked it
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
Nov 09, 2008 Tatiana rated it liked it
Shelves: plays
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.
Jul 08, 2012 Abbie rated it liked it
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.
Mar 03, 2013 Andrea rated it it was ok
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.
Dec 09, 2010 Charles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 05, 2009 Mick rated it it was amazing
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.
Dec 31, 2013 Julia rated it really liked it
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.
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.
Jun 10, 2009 Michele rated it liked it
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.
Nov 09, 2013 Juliette rated it really liked it
Shelves: theatre
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).
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.
Dec 29, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 41 42 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Fefu and Her Friends
  • King Hedley II
  • Dead Man's Cell Phone (TCG Edition)
  • The Exonerated
  • Machinal
  • Desdemona: A Play About a Handkerchief
  • Mad Forest: A Play from Romania
  • The Heidi Chronicles
  • Topdog/Underdog (TCG Edition)
  • Saved
  • Wonder of the World: Trade Edition
  • A Bright Room Called Day
  • A Little Night Music
  • Metamorphoses
  • Anna in the Tropics (TCG Edition)
  • Three Tall Women
  • True West
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
More about Anna Deavere Smith...

Share This Book