LEGENDS OF THE AMERICAN DESERT

SOJOURNS IN THE GREATER SOUTHWEST

A masterfully written study of a region that is at once familiar and utterly foreign, by a journalist who has written for the New Yorker, Vanity Fair, and other magazines. Little eludes the grasp of Shoumatoff (The World Is Burning, 1990, etc.) in this roughly chronological account of the Southwest's earliest peoples, its conquest and settlement by Spain, its later flood of Anglo immigrants and its most recent incarnation as a region of water-guzzling ``urban oases.'' While the history has already been told (and Shoumatoff acknowledges as much), the author here puts it into a highly vibrant context as he crisscrosses the land, pursuing its ancient and more modern history. Shoumatoff travels to the remotest precincts of northern Mexico's Sierra Madre, whose spectacular silver-veined canyons are now ruled by violent drug lords who have routinely murdered scores of uncooperative Tarahumara Indians. He jourrneys to the ruins of one of the supposed Seven Cities of Cibola in New Mexico, where the Zuni people, who wiped out a Spanish expedition over four centuries ago, still reside. With the mother of Navajo and former marine Clayton Lonetree, he visits the young man incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth. Frequent asides happily intrude throught out this sprawling volume: In no specific order, short chapters are devoted to such arcane subjcts as the history of the chile pepper; the hidden Jews of New Mexico; a stretch of Route 66. But of greatest saliency in this remarkable work, and what stitches its widely spaced locales together, is the nearly atavistic struggle among the Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures for access to resources, a competition in which the latter has appropriated most of what is valuable in the Southwest, especially water, permitting the wasteful, extravagant lifestyles of metropolises such as Phoenix and Albuquerque, and the exclusive enclave of Santa Fe. Shoumatoff's book is a definitive accomplishment—an entertainingly informative read that must rank among the preeminent works on this region.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-394-56915-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1997

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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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