A tale that resonates with the outbreak of measles, mumps, and other supposedly contained epidemics today.




A complex tale of medicine, politics, race, and public health.

Reuters senior reporter Randall (The King and Queen of Malibu: The True Story of the Battle for Paradise, 2016, etc.) works his way through a story that is well-documented in the epidemiological literature but hasn’t received much popular attention. At the end of 1899, bubonic plague broke out in Honolulu, with an unknown number of deaths and panic in its wake. Public health officials on the mainland knew that San Francisco was likely next, and they mounted a campaign of quarantine. Even so, crowded Chinatown, in the heart of the city, saw the first cases. A dilemma followed, with Marine Health Service bureau chief Joseph Kinyoun wrestling with whether to cordon off the area; writes Randall, “any harsh measures that might scare those living in the plague zone into fleeing outside the district would potentially expand the grip of the disease further.” Working against Kinyoun were California’s governor and San Francisco’s mayor, who alternately denied the existence of the outbreak or demanded that it be hushed up, and even members of the Chinese community, who sued to end the quarantine when a plague had not been officially declared. Racism and corruption played their parts. In the end, Kinyoun was replaced with another public health officer, Rupert Blue, who, also against much opposition, was more successful in his campaign of “eliminating hundreds of thousands of rats from the streets and sewers." Chaos returned with the great earthquake that struck the city, and Blue, who ran into trouble with his bosses in Washington, was assigned elsewhere only to return to Randall’s narrative decades later in Los Angeles, where plague had appeared. There are many moving parts to the story, and they don’t always mesh neatly, but the author does good work in revealing the clamorous crash of public and private interests surrounding the outbreak—and, he notes, the bubonic plague still pops up from time to time in the U.S.

A tale that resonates with the outbreak of measles, mumps, and other supposedly contained epidemics today.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-60945-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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...


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?


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?

No Comments Yet