A lively history of the war that humiliated Mexico and accounts for an enduring grudge against its northern neighbor.

EAGLES AND EMPIRE

THE UNITED STATES, MEXICO, AND THE STRUGGLE FOR A CONTINENT

The former chief historian for the U.S. Forest Service examines one of the most ignominious chapters in American history: the Mexican-American War.

It’s a measure of Mexico’s continuing weak-sister status that the 1846-1848 conflict—because of its implications for the contentious issue of American slavery and because it introduced characters that later loomed much larger in American history—is still too often treated by Anglos as a mere dress rehearsal for the Civil War. Clary (Adopted Son: Washington, Lafayette, and the Friendship that Saved the Revolution, 2007, etc.) considers the war on its own terms, giving particular attention to both sides’ mismanagement of the bloody enterprise. With the exception of the dutiful Kit Carson, virtually none of the well-known historical figures come off creditably here. These include a succession of hapless U.S. ministers to Mexico; the many prominent intellectuals and Whigs who ineffectually opposed this “most unrighteous war”; the micromanaging, near-paranoid President James Polk; the vainglorious caudillo Santa Anna; “The Pathfinder,” John C. Fremont, a blundering egomaniac richly deserving of his court martial; “Old Rough and Ready,” Zachary Taylor, who kept one eye on his political future while allowing horrible atrocities by his occupying army; and “Old Fuss and Feathers,” Winfield Scott, a competent army administrator but a dull-witted soldier in the field. Both generals owed their victories to a talented officer corps, superior artillery and the enemy’s poverty, corruption and inefficiency. The war began with each country announcing the other had invaded and ended with Mexico losing half (counting Texas) its territory. Readers put off by Clary’s occasional too-breezy locutions—he refers, for example, to America’s lust for the continent’s west coast as “California dreaming”—will inevitably succumb to the narrative’s headlong spirit, recounting one slapdash improvisation after another that rearranged the continental map.

A lively history of the war that humiliated Mexico and accounts for an enduring grudge against its northern neighbor.

Pub Date: July 28, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-553-80652-6

Page Count: 624

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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

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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

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