PUSHED

MINERS, A MERCHANT, AND (MAYBE) A MASSACRE

A solid history of Western expansion, a powerful refrain against xenophobia, and a celebration of those who resist.

A history of the tense relationships among White settlers, Chinese miners, and Indigenous peoples of the American West in the late 19th century.

When Spagna set out to write about a possible massacre of Chinese miners in the Columbia River Gorge, she confronted countless obstacles to her research. She could only find a single original record of the so-called Chelan Falls Massacre, an 1892 newspaper article about the killings that read more like a pulp novel than scrupulous reporting. Furthermore, nearly everyone she spoke to in the region offered conflicting accounts of what happened. According to some, nearly 300 Chinese miners had been pushed off a ledge by a group of Indigenous people in the area, while others said that the murderers had been White people dressed as Natives—a not-uncommon practice that conveniently denigrated both groups. Still others believed that it hadn’t been 300 people massacred but 300 feet that they fell. In her quest to uncover the truth, Spagna provides a thorough and insightful depiction of what Chinese immigrant life might have looked like in the 1800s. This history is overlooked despite the fact that by the late 19th century, Chinese immigrants “were doing the lion’s share of work in the West,” including up to “three quarters of the farm labor in California.” The author creates a poignant and damning narrative of discrimination and exclusion integral to the formation of the modern West. Blatantly xenophobic legislation—e.g., the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—expelled many immigrants from the region, while many others faced violence. How a historian chooses to narrate a particular history is significant in countless ways. Spagna is insistent in her efforts to “tune our imaginations to empathy rather than exploitation,” and she succeeds in demonstrating that “when given the opportunity to listen, we should.”

A solid history of Western expansion, a powerful refrain against xenophobia, and a celebration of those who resist.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 9781948814690

Page Count: 215

Publisher: Torrey House Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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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.

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    Best Books Of 2017


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  • National Book Award Finalist

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

IN COLD BLOOD

"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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