Rubin’s earnest, occasionally plodding study is unlikely to win Sherman new admirers in either North or South, but it is of...

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THROUGH THE HEART OF DIXIE

SHERMAN'S MARCH AND AMERICAN MEMORY

On the trail of William Tecumseh Sherman’s “bummers.”

Sherman’s brilliant feint across the Carolinas and Georgia, writes Rubin (History/Univ. of Maryland, Baltimore County; A Shattered Nation: The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy, 1861-1868, 2005), is remembered today as both punitive and liberating—punitive against resistant secessionists, liberating for the slaves along his path. Yet, as the author writes, though he was a vengeful and violent man, Sherman was no abolitionist: He did not publicly support emancipation, opposed the use of black soldiers in the Union Army and “accepted black laborers only grudgingly.” Infamously, he abandoned “contrabands” at Ebenezer Creek after they built his troops a bridge across the swamp, leaving them to the mercy of Confederate attackers; it is possible that as many as 5,000 former slaves were thus left behind to be killed. Even so, as Rubin writes, Sherman “became fundamentally identified with liberation.” The author examines the history of Sherman’s March to the Sea and its often overlooked aspects—one uncomfortable example being the incidence of rape committed against women of whatever ethnicity along the way and the attendant trauma, including that of women who would later be hospitalized for mental breakdowns and other symptoms attributable “to that signal event.” In all this, Rubin writes confidently and well. Somewhat more scattershot are her discussions of Sherman’s march in popular history: Ross McElwee’s film of that name, which is only nominally about the historic event, seems shoehorned into a more searching look at Margaret Mitchell’s use of the facts in Gone with the Wind. If often slow, her work is at its best when it turns up small, forgotten episodes such as the use of Confederate prisoners as human shields against explosive booby traps along the army’s route—a very modern matter indeed.

Rubin’s earnest, occasionally plodding study is unlikely to win Sherman new admirers in either North or South, but it is of much interest to Civil War buffs.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4696-1777-0

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of North Carolina

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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