SEASONS OF WAR

THE ORDEAL OF A SOUTHERN COMMUNITY, 1861-1865

The triumphs and trials of a small Virginia community that lay directly in the paths of the warring Union and Confederate armies, superbly chronicled by historian Sutherland (Univ. of Arkansas; The Expansion of Everyday Life: 18601876, 1989, etc.). The fortunes of Culpeper County in many ways mirrored those of the South at large, the seasons of its war tracking those of the Confederacy. Here these fortunes are vividly captured, from immediately before the war through the South's early successes and eventual defeat. Culpeper saw much bloodshed between 1861 and 1865: It was near Manassas, within earshot of Chancellorville and Fredericksburg, and the site of the brutal Cedar Mountain campaign. Culpeper was also twice occupied by the Union Army and a temporary base of operations for Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. Even ``homely angel'' Clara Barton made an appearance in Culpeper to nurse the casualties of Cedar Mountain. But it is in his depictions of the common soldier and of everyday civilian life in a war zone that Sutherland shines, bringing immediacy to historic events through creative present-tense narrative, judicious use of statistics, and liberal quoting from the participants themselves. These include Catherine Crittenden, whose home went from prosperous farm to battlefield to hospital; soldiers who buried playing cards and tobacco so that, in case of their death, these evil items wouldn't be sent home to mothers, wives, and girlfriends; soldiers burying the severed limbs of wounded comrades; Bessie Browning and Daniel Grimsley, engaged before the war, faithful correspondents during it, and married after. And through these ordinary citizens, Sutherland creates a picture of the war that is at once comprehensive and highly personal. A rare combination of documented facts and moving storytelling. (16 pages b&w photos, maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 1995

ISBN: 0-02-874043-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1995

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A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

CODE TALKER

A firsthand account of how the Navajo language was used to help defeat the Japanese in World War II.

At the age of 17, Nez (an English name assigned to him in kindergarten) volunteered for the Marines just months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Growing up in a traditional Navajo community, he became fluent in English, his second language, in government-run boarding schools. The author writes that he wanted to serve his country and explore “the possibilities and opportunities offered out there in the larger world.” Because he was bilingual, he was one of the original 29 “code talkers” selected to develop a secret, unbreakable code based on the Navajo language, which was to be used for battlefield military communications on the Pacific front. Because the Navajo language is tonal and unwritten, it is extremely difficult for a non-native speaker to learn. The code created an alphabet based on English words such as ant for “A,” which were then translated into its Navajo equivalent. On the battlefield, Navajo code talkers would use voice transmissions over the radio, spoken in Navajo to convey secret information. Nez writes movingly about the hard-fought battles waged by the Marines to recapture Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima and others, in which he and his fellow code talkers played a crucial role. He situates his wartime experiences in the context of his life before the war, growing up on a sheep farm, and after when he worked for the VA and raised a family in New Mexico. Although he had hoped to make his family proud of his wartime role, until 1968 the code was classified and he was sworn to silence. He sums up his life “as better than he could ever have expected,” and looks back with pride on the part he played in “a new, triumphant oral and written [Navajo] tradition,” his culture's contribution to victory.

A unique, inspiring story by a member of the Greatest Generation.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-425-24423-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dutton Caliber

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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