BEFORE THE REVOLUTION

AMERICA'S ANCIENT PASTS

Readers will find little ancient history in this deceptively titled work, but rather a lucid, thought-provoking history of North America to the 1760s.

Dreams of the conquistadores’ riches influenced British, French and Dutch explorers after 1492, but Richter (Early American Studies/Univ. of Pennsylvania; Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America, 2001, etc.) emphasizes that imperialism, trade and religious proselytism made an equally powerful contribution. For 150 years after Columbus, European arrivals in North America paid little attention to farming (and often starved as a result) but found trading profitable. The author downplays the traditional picture of early settlers driving hapless Indians off their lands. Exchanging a beaver skin for knives or guns seemed like taking candy from a baby to Native Americans. Obsessed with trading, many migrated toward, not away, from white settlements, fighting to expel tribes in direct contact with traders. Matters changed after 1700 with the Dutch out of the picture and France marginalized; Britain dominated seaborne commerce, commodity prices rose, African slaves poured in and Parliament began an intense, but unsuccessful, effort to convert the fractious colonies into a dependable revenue stream. Once land ownership—a mystery to Native Americans—and agriculture became the dominant source of profit, most Americans wanted Indians out of the way. Richter emphasizes that Europeans often treated each other as nastily as they treated other cultures. An astute, thoroughly enjoyable mixture of political, economic and social history that culminates in a turbulent 18th-century North America whose people did not consider themselves on the verge of revolution but knew that things were not right.

 

Pub Date: April 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-674-05580-3

Page Count: 370

Publisher: Belknap/Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

  • Kirkus Prize
  • Kirkus Prize
    winner

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Finalist

  • National Book Award Winner

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

Did you like this book?

more