With a vast dramatis personae and stage, Hyde’s book sheds considerable light on the 19th-century development of the nation....

EMPIRES, NATIONS, AND FAMILIES

A NEW HISTORY OF THE NORTH AMERICAN WEST, 1800-1860

A sharp reframing of the history of the early Western frontier in personal terms.

At the outset of this elegantly written study, winner of the Bancroft Prize and a finalist for last year’s Pulitzer Prize (the book was first published in 2011 by the University of Nebraska Press), Hyde (History/Colorado Coll.) observes that the Louisiana Purchase did not suddenly dump into the tender hands of the new United States a howling, savage unknown. Instead, granted that the “Anglo-Americans were newcomers in a world that was anything but wilderness,” the vast region was a territory both held together and divided by complex lines of relation, friendship and other affinities elective and otherwise. Within the confines of the West were settlements such as St. Louis, Santa Fe, Nootka and Prairie du Chien whose inhabitants spoke countless languages and were often of mixed ethnicity. It was family connections more than any political or military power that enabled those people to cross lines of nationhood and race; Hyde cites, for instance, the case of William Bent, the founder of Bent’s Fort, Colo., a success as both a trading post and a non-Native American settlement only “because [he] had made familial relationships with the Cheyenne, American, and Mexican elites.” With the arrival of formal American institutions, writes Hyde, racism began to take hold; as she concludes, after 1860, “[i]deas about race and how it described people and circumscribed behavior remained very shifty but soon had the power of the state to give them shape.” The shape they took was that of Jim Crow, and soon, those old kinship and friendship ties gave way to a different set of laws.

With a vast dramatis personae and stage, Hyde’s book sheds considerable light on the 19th-century development of the nation. Highly recommended.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-222515-3

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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