An excellent contribution to the truth telling of the American Indian story.



A nonpolemical, engaging study of a once-thriving Indian nation of the American heartland whose origins and demise tell us much about ourselves.

Along the Missouri River in North Dakota, the Mandan people flourished in the warming period between ice ages, circa A.D. 1000, drawn to the alluvial richness of the river as well as the bison hunting ranges of the Western grasslands. In her thorough mosaic of Mandan history and culture, Fenn (Western American History/Univ. of Colorado; Pox Americana: The Great Smallpox Epidemic of 1775–82, 2001, etc.) writes that these were an immensely adaptable people, migrating upstream when weather patterns changed, mastering the cultivation of corn and other edibles and the art of trade, often in competition with other horticulturalist tribes nearby, like the Arikara and Lakota. Elaborate Mandan defense fortifications indicated a vulnerability to attack, perhaps by the fierce, nomadic Sioux. Mandan homes were sturdy and numerous, solid earthen lodges built by the women, who also cultivated the fields, dried the meat and tanned the hides, revealing a strong maternal society where the husbands and the children were shared by sisters in one house due to the scarcity of men, perhaps due to mortality from war and hunting. At the time of the Spanish conquistadors, Fenn estimates there were 12,000 Mandans in the upper Missouri River; it was “teeming with people.” Gradually, contact with outsiders beginning in the 17th century and continuing with the famous interaction with Louis and Clark’s expedition up the Missouri in 1804 led to Mandan decimation by disease as well as by the Norwegian rat, which devoured their corn stored in cache pits. In addition to her comprehensive narrative, Fenn intersperses throughout the narrative many helpful maps and poignant drawings by George Catlin and others.

An excellent contribution to the truth telling of the American Indian story.

Pub Date: March 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8090-4239-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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