A wholly fascinating, evocative glimpse of a harsh, lost world.

THE LAST GENTLEMAN ADVENTURER

COMING OF AGE IN THE ARCTIC

Disarmingly captivating memoir of an Englishman's coming-of-age among the Inuit of the Canadian Arctic in the 1930s.

In notable contrast to the usual memoirs of polar experiences, in which one man tells of pitting himself against the elements in a vast stretch of empty landscape, Maurice, who died in 2003, recalls his years in the frozen North as being marked most by his relationships with the locals. The youngest son of a large family of limited means, Maurice joined up with the Hudson's Bay Company in 1930 at age 16, largely to ensure his room and board at the height of the Great Depression. Although fraternization was not officially sanctioned by his employer, it was tolerated, and the pressures of survival in such isolation led Maurice to become ever closer to the small bands of Inuit hunters and their families, who would set up camp near the trading posts. In this utterly fascinating tale, Maurice recalls his time among the Inuit people (he stayed till 1939), learning about their culture and social structures, gradually becoming their peer. Unfailingly modest, Maurice relates these stories of a mostly lost world in remarkably clear and detailed prose. Local relationships, family interactions, battles against illness, trading customs and the many types of hunts—all are illuminated by this eminently likable narrator, who, unlike most of his coworkers, took the time to learn the language and ways of his hosts. And a good thing it was, since disease killed off most of the hunters one year, and Maurice became responsible for hunting enough game to keep himself, and the other survivors, alive. Delightful moments of absurdity—the popularity of Snow White as a campfire story, the flirting that terrified the innocent teenager—round out this tale of survival.

A wholly fascinating, evocative glimpse of a harsh, lost world.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-51751-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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