Impressive reportage, a fearless commitment to seeing what there is to see, and a strong sense of history: a fine work of...

A THOUSAND SIGHS, A THOUSAND REVOLTS

JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN

A travel writer’s anabasis through a country that is no country.

The Kurds, writes Bird (Neither East Nor West, 2001, etc.), are “an often-overlooked society that has been rocked and at times devastated by some of the most catastrophic events and tragic political policies of the last eighty years.” The fourth-largest ethnic group in the whole of the Middle East, they inhabit a huge swath of territory, stretching “through Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and parts of the former Soviet Union,” and they are numerous, with between 25 and 30 million in that region and another million in Europe and North America. Thus, Bird notes, they are the world’s most populous stateless ethnic group. History has not been kind to the Kurds; in recent years, thanks in part to the fact that Kurdistan takes in some significant deposits of oil, their country has been the object of contest and conquest among many powers. Bird relates a typical incident: the Shah of Iran had been arming the Kurds in their ongoing struggles in neighboring Iraq; yet, following a favorable accord with Iraq brokered by none other than Henry Kissinger, the Shah abandoned the Kurds, thousands of whom were subsequently slaughtered by Iraqi forces. “America is too great a power to betray a small power like the Kurds,” the Kurdish leader lamented; yet, as Bird notes, the US has betrayed the Kurds time and again, and so has England, and so have other major powers. Strangely, though, the Kurds still seem more or less favorably disposed toward the West, affording Bird safe passage throughout difficult country, where she sympathetically reports on daily life—much of it tough, to be sure, but with some surprising wrinkles (the Dohuk Kurds’ devotion to high fashion, for instance) that, in Bird’s hands, do much to humanize people who, for most Westerners, have hitherto served as an exotic symbol of endurance.

Impressive reportage, a fearless commitment to seeing what there is to see, and a strong sense of history: a fine work of literary travel, one that honors its subjects.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-345-46892-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

Did you like this book?

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more