Nonetheless, an engrossing, challenging read.

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GHOSTS OF VESUVIUS

A NEW LOOK AT THE LAST DAYS OF POMPEII, HOW TOWERS FALL, AND OTHER STRANGE CONNECTIONS

Jack-of-all-scientific-trades Pellegrino (Ghosts of the Titanic, 2000, etc.) takes a wide-ranging look at awesome phenomena associated with Earth’s volcanic past and possible future.

The Earth has a life of its own, he reminds us, humbling the reader with a record of major volcanic events powerful enough to obliterate discrete civilizations and entire species, even to redirect evolution itself. And it ain’t over ’til it’s over, Pellegrino asserts. His charting of key incidents shows Mount St. Helens releasing in 1980 energy equivalent to a ten-megaton nuclear blast, but that’s nothing compared to his “standard unit” of an estimated 24,000 megatons, based on the 1628 b.c. explosion of the Island of Thera, a possible Atlantis in the Mediterranean. Records of ancient cultures from China to Byzantium chronicle the “years without summer,” including mini–ice ages, which is often what resulted. The richness of preserved artifacts from the a.d. 79 destruction of the Roman towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum by Mount Vesuvius affords the author a romp through the eruption’s grisly but poignant aftermath, dwelling on the “carbonized tongues” and “exploded teeth” of presumed victims. Less colorful but possibly more interesting are Pellegrino’s summaries of the amazing depth of detail gleaned from the fossil record in relevant locales, effectively rendered via the format of a trip back in time. The author’s vaulting digressions, however, are sometimes merely frustrating: introducing the notion of an infinitely “oscillating” series of identical universes, for example, he doesn’t really explain why Red Sox fans would have to watch that ball go through Bill Buckner’s legs time and again every 20 billion years or so. And a discussion of the mechanics of the World Trade Towers’ collapse in volcanologist’s terms has the ring of afterthought.

Nonetheless, an engrossing, challenging read.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-380-97310-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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