A lucid defense of the Constitution, full of contextual information to supplement and broaden basic knowledge.

Seven Reasons to Love the Constitution


A well-timed refresher course on the forces at play in the conception, ratification, and amendment of this revered (and sometimes reviled) document.

Don’t be deceived by the catchy title; this is not one of those cutesy lists from Buzzfeed or other social media outlets. It is a well-documented treatise on the importance of the Constitution that includes 18 pages of sources and 230 endnotes. All too often in our schools, study of the Constitution involves rote memorization of the end result. As Kurdas (Ponzi Regulation, 2014, etc.) ably demonstrates, however, it is not monolithic, but instead the product of great compromise among the founders of the nation: “They negotiated between North and South, states and federal power, freedom and governance, popular will and elite authority, bureaucrats and elected officers, race and union, national glory and individual wellbeing.” The author is at her best in such moments; she displays a sharp talent for concise renderings of complex matters. Of special interest are the final two chapters, which address the treatment of Native Americans and the issue of slavery as areas where the Constitution has been severely tested. With regard to the former, she summarizes: “In the sorry history of Indians versus the U.S., Jeffersonian-Jacksonian democracy proved to be oppressive, and only that creature of the Adamsite balance of powers, Marshall’s Court, supported the justice of Indian claims.” This sentence may seem daunting out of context, but attentive readers, led by the framework Kurdas has constructed, will make the necessary connections and understand its meaning. It is also in this section that the author devotes considerable space to Sam Houston, a unique figure whose role in history is perhaps not as well-known as it should be outside of Texas. If there is a drawback in this work, it appears right at the end, when Kurdas considers the current political climate and reveals her views on the debates surrounding the Second Amendment (should be defended at all costs with no room for compromise) or same-sex marriage (should be decided by a popular vote). To her credit, up until this point, she keeps her analysis relatively evenhanded, which is not an easy thing to do.

A lucid defense of the Constitution, full of contextual information to supplement and broaden basic knowledge.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5376-8408-6

Page Count: 218

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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