Colorful, opinionated, openly hostile to the new historians—and great fun to read.

LAND OF LINCOLN

ADVENTURES IN ABE’S AMERICA

A search for traces of the Great Emancipator in today’s America.

Weekly Standard senior editor Ferguson, an Illinois native, became a Lincoln buff at an early age. So protests against a proposed Lincoln statue in Richmond, Va., aroused his curiosity: Why do so many hate this revered president? He attended meetings of the protestors, as well as the dedication of the statue, and began to learn just how much baggage Lincoln still carries. The Richmond statue was paid for by a commercial collectibles company that planned to recoup its costs by selling miniature replicas of it. The anti-statue forces blamed Lincoln for everything wrong with modern America, big government and big business in particular. Inspired by the memory of what Lincoln used to mean to him, Ferguson decided to explore other Lincoln sites. He found his boyhood image of the Great Emancipator undercut by recent historians’ new vision: Lincoln as a flawed, ambiguous figure posthumously co-opted to embody establishment values. The author was also disillusioned to find that the National Park Service does what it can to keep anyone from getting too close to the artifacts in the Lincoln historical sites under its auspices. And he was almost equally nonplussed by the Lincoln buffs who amass their own collections of artifacts, from signed documents to bits of cloth purportedly bearing bloodstains from the assassination. Ferguson handled an original copy of the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Ill. Finally, he took his family along the Lincoln Trail, visiting sites in three states. His narrative mostly records the depredations of the Park Service and the new historians, but the author manages, in the end, to recapture his faith in the Lincoln who means the most to him: the icon who inspires people around the world with a vision of freedom.

Colorful, opinionated, openly hostile to the new historians—and great fun to read.

Pub Date: June 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-87113-967-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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