Despite some odd byways, and an occasional clumsy sentence, a cartoon history for everyone: painless, witty, and inviting.



Educational comics have an honorable history, forged in the US by the visual didact Larry Gornick, and in Latin America by Rius, to whom Stavans (Amherst) and his artist collaborator pay tribute in their cartoon overview of Latin culture’s relation to the US.

Mexican-born Stavans here focuses on creating a historical narrative that draws heavily from popular culture and celebrates the mixture of backgrounds that find expression in present-day “spanglish.” He develops a cast of speakers that includes a conventional teacher, a toucan (homage to magic realism), the actor Cantinflas, and himself—a typically bespectacled college prof. These three emphasize the basic facts of recent history: the growing Latin presence north of Mexico; the 70 or so different ethnicities and languages south of the border; and the troubled legacy of US imperialism. Stavans gives voice to the unspoken “crucial factor” in Latin history: the mix of “racial types” that influences the course of events. He also highlights legendary Latin figures from the popular bandit Joaquin Murrieta to the saintly missionary Junipero Serra. Along the way, he and Alcaraz provide an alternate view of events familiar to most North Americans: the siege of the Alamo, the Spanish-American War, and American intervention in modern revolutionary struggles. The real strength of the book, though, is in its account of the Latin presence in the US: Stavans plugs his own work on such figures as Mexican film star Cantinflas (and also on the less important Oscar Acosta, the “Samoan” lawyer from Hunter Thompson fame). The three main groups of immigrants—from Mexico, Cuba, and Puerto Rico—each receive due attention for their unique contributions to the evolving Pan-American culture. And Stavans even has kind words for the dissenting views of Mexican-American Richard Rodriquez, whose assimilationist vision isn’t so very different from that of Stavans and Alcazar.

Despite some odd byways, and an occasional clumsy sentence, a cartoon history for everyone: painless, witty, and inviting.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-465-08221-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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?