Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.

POCAHONTAS AND THE POWHATAN DILEMMA

Not only did a love-struck Pocahontas not throw herself before John Smith and save his life, but she probably didn’t even like him much.

The English settlers who arrived in Jamestown in 1607 came with high hopes: they trusted that the Spanish, who practically owned the Americas, would leave them alone, and they trusted that the Indians of the York River region would gladly slip into serfdom and keep them fed. The Spanish, in fact, didn’t come calling. But they had before, and the Indians of the Chesapeake Bay region had suffered terribly from their visits. Naturally enough, they suspected that the English and the Spanish had similar designs on their homeland, and Chief Powhatan himself asked John Smith: “In how many daies will there come hither any more English ships?” The Chesapeake people had reason for their suspicions because, writes Townsend (History/Colgate Univ.), John Smith “saw Hernando Cortés as something of a role model, or . . . he at least saw himself as one in a long line of great conquistadors.” And what would Hernando do, given recalcitrant Indians and other frontier rigors? Why, he’d kidnap an Indian princess, in this case Powhatan’s daughter Pocahontas, and then concoct a useful mythology that she had thrown herself at him out of sheer lust. Smith and other “storytellers subverted her life,” writes Townsend, “to satisfy their own need to believe that the Indians loved and admired them (or their cultural forebears), without resentments, without guile.” But, as it happens, the Indians had other feelings, and not long after the death of Pocahontas’s English husband John Rolfe and four years after Powhatan had died, the Indians staged one final uprising, their last hurrah. Townsend writes that nothing Pocahontas herself, who died young, or “Queen Cockacoeske, or others like them” could have done would have saved the native peoples of the region. Yet, she adds, “It is important to do them the honor of believing that they did their best.”

Colonial history that admirably complicates the history of Indian/white relations in Virginia.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8090-9530-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2004

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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