A superb book, essential reading for students of the once-and-future Arctic.

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FLOATING COAST

AN ENVIRONMENTAL HISTORY OF THE BERING STRAIT

A lyrical, deeply learned ecological history of the region where Asia and North America meet.

The peoples of Beringia are many, writes Demuth (Environmental History/Brown Univ.), but ultimately, they divide into Natives—the Iñupiaq, Chukchi, Yupik, and so on—and foreigners, who number everyone else. Those foreigners—Russians, British explorers, and Yankee whalers—fundamentally altered the environment of the region in a fairly short time. If, as the author notes, Natives and foreigners alike went in search of whales as a source of sustenance, they did so with different ideas of what to do with their prize. Apparently influenced by students of Howard Odum, Demuth writes of energy flows across the region. “To be alive,” she writes, “is to take a place in a chain of conversions.” The seas surrounding the Bering Straits are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, and “human life in Beringia was shaped, in part, by the ways energy moved over the land and through the sea.” Many of those ways were purely extractive, as energy sources, from ambergris to oil, were located and taken away, a process against which Native people and some foreigners militated. One of Demuth’s great contributions is her exploration of the radical history of labor in the remote regions, a history soon supplanted by corporate capitalism on one shore and the gulag on the other, even as new arrivals concentrated their efforts on “liberating energy.” Now, she writes, a new chapter in Beringian history is being composed with climate change, a transformation that led one elder to observe that “foreigners had brought the end of a world to his people a century ago." The far north has inspired a remarkable body of literature, highlighted, in recent years, by Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams and Lawrence Millman’s At the End of the World. Demuth’s book, based on years of field research and comprehensive study, easily takes its place alongside them.

A superb book, essential reading for students of the once-and-future Arctic.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-63516-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2019

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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 PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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