Skilled storytelling drives an astute examination of a sad, complicated episode.



A successful effort to understand both sides of the struggle between a stubbornly unassimilated Pacific Northwest tribe and the white world that steadily encroached on its turf.

When Lewis and Clark encountered them in present-day Idaho in 1805, the Nez Perce found white men no mystery, writes West (American History/Univ. of Arkansas; The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado, 1998, etc.). The tribe already yearned for firearms and other attractive but scarce manufactured goods. For decades, they happily traded with trappers and travelers and welcomed missionaries. In the first of many misunderstandings, these religious proselytizers assumed the Nez Perce would discard their culture and become Christian farmers, while the tribe hoped missionaries would increase their worldly well-being. Since they considered themselves good people, the Nez Perce were puzzled efforts to persuade them they were miserable sinners. After 1840, they prospered trading with wagon trains heading for rich Oregon farmland. Most Nez Perce land was infertile, so another decade passed before settlers began moving in. Then followed years of intimidation and worthless treaties that steadily shrank the tribe’s territory. Ordered to a reservation outside their lands in 1877, many members refused and took their families, horses and cattle on a legendary 1,500-mile flight toward Canada. The author writes a gripping, nearly day-by-day account of that epic journey, during which hundreds died while outnumbered warriors repeatedly defeated the surprisingly incompetent U.S. Army. Ironically, their flight and bitter surrender produced a wave of admiration across America for the Nez Perce. Their purported leader, Chief Joseph, became a national hero, but no one wanted to give back their land, so the tribe returned to its reservation. Histories of American Indians rarely end happily.

Skilled storytelling drives an astute examination of a sad, complicated episode.

Pub Date: April 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-19-513675-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2009

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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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