An exhaustive, dogged work of genealogical research.



A deeply intimate, rigorously detailed study of a lost Jewish world revealed within three minutes of a home movie shot in a small Polish town in 1938.

In 2008, Kurtz (Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music, 2007) was sidetracked from writing a novel after the discovery of a short 16mm film made by his grandparents Liza and David Kurtz of Flatbush, Brooklyn, on their vacation to Europe with another couple in 1938. Between their visits to Belgium and Switzerland, there is a three-minute interlude when the American tourists were ambling about a small Polish town attracting all kinds of delighted attention from the native onlookers. The Kurtz family lore was that the grandparents (both now deceased) were visiting Liza’s hometown of Berezne, Poland. However, as the author began to research the details of architecture and street life evident in the film—and thanks to help from Holocaust archivists in Washington—he learned that the town being filmed was not Berezne but David’s hometown of Nasielsk, residence to approximately 3,000 Jews in 1938—of whom only 80 survived the war. Gradually, the author tracked down several native Nasielskers who had recorded their stories. After incredible detective work, he also discovered the identity of the 13-year-old boy mugging most visibly for the camera in the Kurtz film: a certain Maurice Chandler of Boca Raton, Florida, who saw most of his family perish when the Nazis invaded in September 1939. He survived the horrific ordeal of the Warsaw Ghetto and was still alive to tell the tale into his 80s. The degree of detail in this work is staggering: The closer Kurtz peered, the more he learned of a rich, vibrant world on the brink of extinction.

An exhaustive, dogged work of genealogical research.

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0374276775

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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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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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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