Though much of this history is well-documented in the scholarly literature, it’s undeniably useful to have it in a single...

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EL NORTE

THE EPIC AND FORGOTTEN STORY OF HISPANIC NORTH AMERICA

A long but readable history of the Spanish presence in North America from the time of the first European arrival to our own era.

What does it mean to be Hispanic? Is one Hispanic if one does not speak Spanish or Portuguese, or does ethnicity extend beyond the borders of language? So Gibson (Empire’s Crossroads: A History of the Caribbean from Columbus to the Present Day, 2014) wonders at the opening of her synoptic history of the Spanish in North America. Much of that history has not figured in textbooks until recent times, since, as the author observes, Americanness was largely equated with northwestern European ancestry. Yet that Spanish presence is everywhere. Gibson’s first extended look into that history begins at Parris Island, South Carolina, best known as a Marine Corps training center but also the site where Spain and France contended to establish outposts of empire. The author’s account includes well-known historical figures such as Christopher Columbus and Bartolomé de Las Casas, the latter a cleric who decried violence against the Indigenous people of Mexico and inadvertently helped promote the “Black Legend” of Spanish avarice and tyranny. Refreshingly, however, Gibson also embraces lesser-known figures such as the French cartographer Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, whose engravings introduced European readers to scenes of Native American life, and Po’pay, the organizer of a revolt of Pueblo Indians against the Spanish in New Mexico in 1680. Interestingly, as Gibson notes, Po’pay is now one of the two people from New Mexico’s history depicted in the hall of statues in the U.S. Capitol, while controversy has arisen around one of California’s representatives, the missionary Junipero Serra, who has since been implicated in violence against his native charges. Gibson soundly concludes that the history of the Spanish “is central to how the United States has developed and will continue to develop,” lending further utility to her work.

Though much of this history is well-documented in the scholarly literature, it’s undeniably useful to have it in a single survey volume for general readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8021-2702-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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