A native of South Philadelphia's Little Italy takes a tour of the Americans who share his last name—an ingenuous travel tale by turns entertaining and just plain silly. It all began in 1984 when the author responded to a piece of junk mail offering ``The Amazing Story of the Tonellis in America,'' a directory of all US residents with his own last name. Paging through the leatherette-bound volume, with its spurious family coat of arms (``crossed goats on a bed of linguini''), the 30-year-old Tonelli knew he was indulging in a cheap thrill but was shaken nonetheless by the concept of the ``Tonelli Nation.'' Even after he moved to New York and became a senior editor at Esquire, the author remained fascinated by the idea. Eventually, armed with an advance for this book, he set out on his road tour. Traveling 12,000 miles down the Eastern seaboard, across Texas to California, up to Alaska, and across the Midwest, Tonelli quizzes unsuspecting Tonelli dentists, nurses, football players, car dealers, nuns, museum directors, and one murderer on their tastes in tomato sauce, Godfather movies, and styles of social interaction. But the author fails to experience the jolt of tribal recognition he'd hoped for. Instead, the Tonellis, now two or three generations removed from their immigrant ancestors (who were in any case, it turns out, rarely directly related) turn out to be as randomly assorted as any bunch of people waiting at a bus stop. Their only special bond, Tonelli concludes with a freshly hatched (and sometimes wobbly) voice of authority, has to do with the people they might have been, had history not had other plans for them. Nevertheless, by simply dropping in on these perfect strangers and talking with them, the author has in a real sense claimed the Tonellis, and claimed America, too.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-201-62455-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Addison-Wesley

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1994

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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