A meticulous, exhaustive history of moonshining, poverty and Blue Ridge culture.




A scholarly dissection of the 1930s moonshine-based economy of Franklin County, Virginia.

Filmmaker and author Thompson (Cultural Anthropology/Duke Univ.; The Old German Baptist Brethren: Faith, Farming and Change in the Virginia Blue Ridge, 2006, etc.) uses his family's history in Franklin County to delve deeper into the subject of moonshining, as well as the federal government's effort to halt its production. While the author focuses on the trial that all but toppled the illegal industry, far more interesting is the local color. Thompson brings the area to life, offering a portrait of a place that the government forgot, a blue-collar town run amok with barefoot children and well-armed men. With an utter lack of resources, county citizens were forced to “invent an economy from scratch”—homemade liquor became the primary cash crop. However, Thompson argues that the guilty parties were not merely the moonshiners, but those who overlooked the crippling poverty that plagued the town. “Without a doubt,” he writes, “some [moonshiners] were honest and hardworking and made whiskey for some cash money for their families. Others were out for profits well beyond a simple leaving.” The author paints an overly sympathetic portrait of a crime-filled town, but he does so for good reason. This is a story as much about a culture wilting away as it is about the crimes that were committed there. As the moonshiners might argue, seeking a way to feed one's family can hardly be considered a crime. The town offered few alternatives, writes Thompson, and the people of Franklin County filled every jug they could for profit.

A meticulous, exhaustive history of moonshining, poverty and Blue Ridge culture.

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-252-07808-8

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Univ. of Illinois

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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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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