A brave, lively writer opens up a wondrous, changing nation.



An elucidating journey through the myriad-island republic.

Journalist and epidemiologist Pisani (The Wisdom of Whores: Bureaucrats, Brothels and the Business of AIDS, 2008) took a year to trek among the archipelago nation she grew to admire more than 20 years before, when she posted there as a reporter for Reuters news agency. Branching out from the dominant island of Java, home to 60 percent of all Indonesians, and its modern capital of Jakarta, the author found among numerous smaller and less visited islands—as there are nearly 13,500 islands containing over 360 ethnic groups, by her estimate, she could only visit a fraction—a richness and diversity. She discovered much that was “friendly” but “schizophrenic,” “shambolic” and “unpredictable,” a vying for modernity and traditional values with plenty of elements still being figured out. Declared independent in 1945, after the defeat of the Japanese occupiers, and before that, the deeply resented Dutch, whose merchants had exploited for centuries the rich spices (cloves, nutmeg) and pearls along the archipelago, Indonesia is a nation cobbled together by the long tradition of trading, by the lingua franca of Malay, and by the astute charisma and nationalist philosophy of its founding leader, Sukarno. As a woman traveling solo, Pisani encountered some frustrating questions from villagers—e.g., why she didn’t have children—but she was usually embraced by the familial hospitality of the people she met. She unearths interesting material about the surprising, delightful and frequently bewildering spectacle of adat—a prideful tradition—which encompasses obligations, spirituality and poverty. Speaking the language and living among the villagers helped Pisani navigate this delicate system of barter and honor. She finds Indonesia gaining democratic agency after a troubling history of authoritarianism, separatist movements, the tsunami of 2004, a mismanagement of natural resources and an urgently needed bolstering of the education system.

A brave, lively writer opens up a wondrous, changing nation.

Pub Date: June 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-08858-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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