A sympathetic, brave work from a deeply engaged war correspondent.



Norwegian journalist Seierstad (The Bookseller of Kabul, 2003, etc.) movingly reports on the bleak fallout from the wars in Chechnya.

Her atmospheric and heartbreakingly sad text records two treks to the newly independent Muslim country: in 1995, shortly after the disastrous invasion by Russian troops under Boris Yeltsin, and again 12 years later when the war raged anew under Vladimir Putin. Seierstad was a 24-year-old rookie journalist eager to join the fray (despite warnings of sniper attacks) when she hitched a ride with Russian troops into Grozny in 1995. She found the city emptied of men, who were fighting in the mountains, and full of starving, terrified women. Its hospitals, orphanages, waterworks and homes had been demolished by Russian attacks. The Chechens’ lives had been blown apart by war, and thousands of orphans had been left to survive on their own. Following the author’s initial trip, Aslan Maskhadov was elected as Chechnya’s first president in 1997. He proved unable to control the spread of wahhabism, a radical form of Islamic fundamentalism that split the country and led to new conflict with Russia. After Maskhadov’s assassination in March 2005, Seierstad found her way back into the country and met Hadijat, called the Angel of Grozny because she never turned away a child in need. In her unofficial orphanage Hadijat and her husband Malik cared for scores of children who had been abandoned, abused and traumatized, left with few prospects for education or a future. The author listened to these suffering youngsters and chronicles their tales of torture, deportation and misery. She also offers her observations on the absurdities of Chechnya’s new, Soviet-style dictator Ramzan Kadyrov, who simply denied the existence of 20,000 orphans. Chechens pride themselves as fearless freedom fighters and frequently take the wolf as their symbol, Seierstad notes, but they “forgot that the wolf is a beast of prey that mercilessly pursues every weak, defenseless animal.”

A sympathetic, brave work from a deeply engaged war correspondent.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-465-01122-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2008

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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



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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