A worthy chronicle. Read between the lines for parallels with events in other insurgent lands.




Add Columbus, N.M., to the roster of attacks on unwitting American civilians.

Americans of 1916 might have wondered why “they” hate us, too. As Welsome (The Plutonium Files, 1999) explains, Pancho Villa, leader of one of the contending armies in revolutionary Mexico, felt betrayed by the Wilson administration’s support of his enemies and was convinced “that the Americans would soon invade their beloved homeland.” He therefore resolved to take his war across the border. The dusty little town of Columbus held a small army garrison, a couple of stores and some needed supplies, so it seemed a promising target. Villa’s attack on it, though, turned out to be a costly tactical mistake, for, among other effects, it drew down a larger American force under the command of John J. Pershing and George Patton, neither of whom had much regard for Mexico’s national sovereignty, and forced Villa to live as an outlaw in his own country. Welsome’s account of the Columbus raid, in which 18 Americans died, is exciting. Her retelling of the Pershing expedition is also solid, a wild-goose-chase nightmare of confused intelligence and inhospitable elements in which Villistas, bandits, the Mexican army, the weather and disease all get a shot at the invading gringo force. Welsome sometimes strives too hard to inject local color into the narrative, and constructions such as “The melancholy cries of tamale women and scissors grinders dropped like birdsong into the somnolent quiet of late afternoons” and “The soldiers sprinted forward, eager to feel the wet mud between their dedos del pie” succeed only in making the reader’s cabeza hurt. Still, the events of 1916 on the border are too little known, as is the season of anti-Mexican reprisal that took place within the U.S. following the raid, culminating in the hanging of six Villistas.

A worthy chronicle. Read between the lines for parallels with events in other insurgent lands.

Pub Date: June 2, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-71599-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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

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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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