LET ME BE FREE

A NEZ PERCÇ TRAGEDY

Lavender, a prolific historian of the West (The Way to the Western Sea, 1988, etc.), offers a tragic tale of a Native American tribe's loss of its land, culture, and identity. The 1877 flight of the Nez PercÇ is one of the most famous and mournful episodes in the long history of Indian disenfranchisement. For three and a half months and 1700 miles, they managed to elude General O.O. Howard in an escape from their Pacific Northwest homelands, only to be overtaken a mere two days' ride from safety in Canada. During that time, white Americans came to admire the tribe's Chief Joseph as a master orator and military tactician who continually managed to outfox his pursuers. Here, Lavender sees the flight of the Nez PercÇ as the culmination of the tribe's more than 75 years of encounters with whites, including Lewis and Clark, British and American fur traders, missionaries, miners, farmers, Indian agents, and federal troops. In the process, the Nez PercÇ were buffeted by outside forces—horses, guns, diseases, material goods they badly wanted but could scarcely afford—that filled them with doubt about their traditional guardian spirits (wayakins). Yet, Lavender says, the major mistake this peaceful, much put-upon people made was to believe the US government's promise that treaties guaranteed their right to the land of their fathers. As sympathetic as Lavender is to the Nez PercÇ, though, he is careful not to make exaggerated claims for them. For instance, he shows that General Howard invented Chief Joseph's skill as a wily military genius in order to excuse the general's own bumbling pursuit of the tribe. A powerful lament for a tribe that illustrates, as Lavender says, ``the infinite sadness of a race's defeat and death.'' (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: May 20, 1992

ISBN: 0-06-016707-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1992

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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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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

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