Karttunen (Anthropology/Linguistic Research Center, Univ. of Texas) has identified a fascinating topic in the lives and roles of interpreters, guides, and informants to missionaries, explorers, soldiers: world-bridging mediators, the ultimate aliens. Using the languages she knows and works that have survived, Karttunen presents not theory or symbols but life stories, nine in detail, seven more briefly. Dividing these into three major groups- -the guides, the civil servants, and the informants or wordsmiths- -she ranges from the earliest explorers to contemporary drug culture: the familiar Ishi, the last surviving Yahi Indian; Do§a Marina, interpreter for Cortes in his conquest of Mexico; Sacajawea, who guided Lewis and Clark over the Continental Divide; Sarah Winnemucca, who started as a US Army Scout in the 19th century and became a lobbyist for her Native American tribe; Gaspar Antonio Chi, a 16th-century Inca who recorded the destruction of his culture; and Charles Eastman, the Sioux physician at Wounded Knee whose legacy is in the ceremonies of the Boy Scouts and the Campfire Girls. The three major native informants are especially interesting, though hardly representative of their cultures: Larin Paraske, a pitiful 19th-century migrant Finnish poet; Do§a Luz Jimenez, model for Diego Rivera, who embodied the spirit of Mexico in his paintings and murals; and Maria Sabina, the Mazatec mushroom shaman exploited by the drug cults of the 60's. Though the book is never overtly moralistic, exploitation is its theme—the terrible price these unusual figures played for being the messengers, the spokespeople. As Karttunen skillfully represents them, their lives- -and the lives of their children—are all poignant, if not tragic. Even without a theory to explain them, these figures form a memorable group, the admonishing statues in abandoned temples. Would make a great PBS documentary.

Pub Date: March 15, 1994

ISBN: 0-8135-2030-4

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Rutgers Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

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?