A start toward recording the history of an underdocumented, influential presence in American society, but be warned: The...

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THE ARAB AMERICANS

A HISTORY

An idiosyncratic account of Arab immigrants and their native-born children in America.

Orfalea (Writing/Pitzer College) doesn’t trade in ethnic history on a par with, say, Manuel Gonzales’s Mexicanos (1999) or Michael Coffey’s The Irish in America (1998). Rather, he offers a family-and-friends-based account of the three major waves of Arab immigration to the U.S., as with his reminiscence of a colleague: “In the dead of winter, in January 2005, Hisham Sharabi died of cancer in Beirut at 77. If not Palestine, at least he had palms and the sea and his beauties nearby. From my perch in California looking out at the snowy San Bernardinos, I see him smile.” Among his interviewees are writer Vance Bourjaily, “one of the only serious American novelists of Lebanese heritage to make a name for himself in fiction” (William Peter Blatty, of Exorcist fame, lacks sufficient gravitas to count); a Yemeni doctor in Michigan who has given up haunting libraries for fear of falling victim to the Patriot Act; actor F. Murray Abraham, who remarks, “I’m half Syrian, half Italian—of course I empathize with any Mediterranean people, especially Semites”; Paul Orfalea, founder of the Kinko’s copy shop chain; and entertainers Casey Kasem and Danny Thomas, ever careful to avoid alienating the mainstream audience. When Orfalea does write straight history, he often falls into error: Estevanico, servant of conquistadors, was a Moor, not an Arab, and was killed by Zunis, not Navajos; Hadj Ali, one of the first Muslim immigrants to America, was a Greek convert who used his birth name for official purposes, not an Arab who was forced by unfeeling immigration officials to take a non-Islamic name. Such slips serve the author’s contention that Arabs have suffered aplenty in the New World, but they undermine his authority.

A start toward recording the history of an underdocumented, influential presence in American society, but be warned: The book has mistakes.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 1-56656-597-9

Page Count: 457

Publisher: Olive Branch/Interlink

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2006

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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