Schor is strongest in tracing Esperanto’s past and present, but she is less persuasive about its robust future in fostering...



The history of a new language that was invented “to bring conversation to a world of misunderstanding.”

Combining biography, history, and a memoir of her own “middle-aged anguish,” Schor (English/Princeton Univ.; Emma Lazarus, 2006, etc.) offers an illuminating, well-researched chronicle of the development of Esperanto from its origins in 19th-century Bialystok to its present iterations on six continents and in 62 countries. Herself a speaker of the constructed language, she reveals her experiences in Esperanto classes and interactions with Esperanto enthusiasts—earnest, quirky, and sometimes contentious—at conferences throughout the world. Central to her story is the father of the language, L.L. Zamenhof, an ophthalmologist who, ironically, was the son of a censor. As a Russian Jew, subject to virulent anti-Semitism, he sought a way to modernize the Jewish community and “gradually include people of other faiths and nationalities.” Communication was central to his vision: cobbling together grammar and word parts from German, English, Russian, Latin, and Greek, Zamenhof contrived a new language to enable conversation “despite differences of nationality, creed, class, or race.” Meant to be a bridge, Esperanto soon became a source of division, as followers of Zamenhof sought to seize power over the dissemination of the language and align it with their own widely dissonant political views, including imperialism, isolationism, socialism, anarchism, and communism. Multiculturalism, meant to be “the lifeblood of Esperanto,” was not easily achieved. “The problem,” said a former head of the Universal Esperanto Association, “is that language is an institution of power. Intended, Zamenhof hoped, to counter nationalism, fascism, and xenophobia, Esperanto sometimes was undermined by those same forces. As George Orwell, the nephew of an Esperanto leader, noted, “for sheer dirtiness of fighting, the feuds between the inventors of various of the international languages would take some beating.”

Schor is strongest in tracing Esperanto’s past and present, but she is less persuasive about its robust future in fostering transnational identity, “durable international networks,” and a strong sense of “belonging to the world.”

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9079-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?