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IRAN

A MODERN HISTORY

A bit textbook-ish, but unquestionably comprehensive and accessible enough for dedicated general readers.

A stately, scholarly study of Iran’s modern development, emphasizing themes of Iranian distinctness from Arab and Western cultures and traditions.

Given that the country was overrun constantly and threatened by powerful neighboring forces, from the Arabs to the Russians to the British, how did the Persian Empire resist being subsumed by them, retaining instead its remarkable language, culture, and Shia religion? In his elucidating study that moves from the establishment of the Safavid dynasty in 1501 through 2009, Amanat (History and International Studies/Yale Univ.) considers many different factors in the making of Iranian cohesion. Geography played an important part, as the country is protected by mountain ranges and at the crossroads of major trading routes yet is also vulnerable as a northern passageway for nomadic invasions. Known by the ancient Greeks as the “formidable Other” superpower, the Persian Empire enjoyed a rich linguistic and cultural tradition and developed a strong idea of political authority in the form of the shah (“one who deserves to rule on his own merit”). Moreover, the divide between the center of power and the periphery was great, and as Shi’ism was consolidated under the Safavid state in the 16th century, the tension gave rise to important indigenous messianic movements. The Qajar era (1797-1852) was marked by the struggle to resist colonial domination while gingerly adopting Western modern technologies. Amanat closely studies the liberal, anti-tyranny legacy of the Constitutional Revolution of 1905-1911 as both a driver of modernizing forces of the later Pahlavi reign (1925-1941) and a significant spur to the sense of democracy and national identity that would resonate with the Iranian Revolution. While the Shia religion (and its semiautonomous clergy) served as the bonding agent, the Ayatollah Khomeini was able to put “into practice the long-speculated-on idea of political Islam.” The author emphasizes the role of Iranian art—poetry, architecture, painting, music, cinema—in helping to encapsulate that national identity but also harbor expressions of political dissent against repressive authorities.

A bit textbook-ish, but unquestionably comprehensive and accessible enough for dedicated general readers.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-300-11254-2

Page Count: 992

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

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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