THE RIVALS

WILLIAM GWIN, DAVID BRODERICK, AND THE BIRTH OF CALIFORNIA

Quinn, fresh from his exploration of early America in A New World ( p. 535), takes on the early days of gold-rush California through the story of two men whose political and personal rivalry was to end in tragedy. William Gwin was a suave Southerner with a handsome fortune who headed a clique of California Southerners known as the ``Chivalry.'' Quinn amusingly shows how Gwin—determined to get his version of a state constitution through the first state assembly at Monterey and himself elected to the US Senate—had to adapt to the rough democratic manners of California politics. He ceded first place for a while to the coon-skinned frontiersman ``Dr.'' Semple, but nevertheless controlled the assembly from a back seat. David Broderick, on the other hand, could not have been more different: a tough street fighter from the slums of New York determined to lead ``the ignorant and the timid'' against their masters in 1849 San Francisco. While Gwin carefully cultivated his image in political circles, even going so far as to agree to the ban on slavery (while still owning slaves himself back home), rival Broderick joined the firemen of the nascent city and quickly conceived a virulent hatred for the patrician Gwin. For Broderick, as Quinn quips, it was simple: ``Let the Chivalry oppose the Shovelry at its peril.'' The end result was a duel between the two resulting in Broderick's death. Quinn paints an absorbing picture of this strange, hurly-burly society, at once primitive and sophisticated, impoverished and unimaginably wealthy. We see the tent city of San Francisco with its ruthless merchants, Australian street gangs, and its harbor teeming with mastless boats whose crews had run off to join the gold rush. We see the beginnings of modern California—a melting pot of American problems and aspirations. Quinn performs his task in a richly straightforward way, depicting his colorful cast with a keen sense of the delicate meshing of the personal and the historical.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59573-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more