A well-told story of discovery, conquest, business and politics.

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SAVAGE KINGDOM

THE TRUE STORY OF JAMESTOWN, 1607, AND THE SETTLEMENT OF AMERICA

Comprehensive account of the first permanent English colony in North America.

Perhaps because its purpose was forthrightly monetary, perhaps because it had the dubious distinction of robustly introducing tobacco and slavery to the country, Jamestown, Va., has never held a place in the nation’s collective consciousness comparable to that of the Plymouth colony. Woolley (The Queen’s Conjurer, 2001, etc.) meticulously gathers and documents all the forgotten details, and while his brilliantly framed narrative remains devoid of any warm, fuzzy uplift, it emerges as fascinating. It’s a wonder the colony survived at all, given its criminal mismanagement, the mutinies and betrayals, famine, disease, withering Indian attacks and the consequent bloody reprisals. Luck surely played a part: Settlers were loaded into ships and just about to abandon Jamestown in 1609, when a longboat rowed up with news of a fleet carrying supplies just arrived in Chesapeake Bay. Certainly, the leadership of tireless explorer, self-promoter and propagandist John Smith was important. Also crucial was the Trinidad tobacco seed planted by John Rolfe, later husband to Christian convert Pocahontas, who made a PR mission with him to England to talk up the colony’s prospects. But the canvas was larger than this tiny beachhead in the New World. Playing a huge, underappreciated role in propping up the beleaguered colony were the reputations and fortunes of the noblemen who established the Virginia Charter and funded the expedition, not to mention the pride of England and the awful prospect of the government abandoning North America to Spain’s Catholic dominion. Woolley effectively establishes this broader context; one of the most engrossing passages here recounts the journey of the Sea Venture, whose ill-fated voyage to Jamestown resulted in the accidental discovery and claim of Bermuda. He illuminates the Virginia colony as part of a larger international game, the stakes of which simultaneously explain and dwarf the sufferings of a few adventurers in a southern swamp.

A well-told story of discovery, conquest, business and politics.

Pub Date: April 10, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-009056-1

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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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

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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