Not quite special enough to stand out in a very crowded field.



Single-volume compendium covering the histories of some 500 Native American groups from misty prehistory to the present, by nature writer and Indian historian Page (Songs to Birds, 1993, etc.).

Native Americans do not easily lend themselves to such sweeping treatment, any more than a few odd millennia of European history can be crammed into a single volume, and the timing of its publication is quixotic, given that chronology of the Native American past is very much under revision. (Good evidence now suggests that humans were in the Americas long before the Bering land bridge existed.) All that said, it should be noted that Page does a credible job. He sidesteps a few of the thornier controversies with the pungent reminder that “it is always useful to remember that science is not designed to produce absolute knowledge, eternally true once found; for the most part it simply pushes back the frontier of that vast realm called ignorance.” But he’s not afraid of controversy either, arguing, for example, that “the first two administrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt saved the culture of American Indians from sliding into oblivion,” although “American Indians tend not to like hearing that argument.” Page rounds up the usual suspects—Geronimo, Crazy Horse, Powhatan—but also examines historical figures too often overlooked, among them Popé, the 17th-century Pueblo Indian leader who exercised “a fierce determination to rid his homelands of the embodiment of evil, the Spanish yoke,” and Joseph Medicine Crow, a Crow leader who discovered that by killing Germans in WWI he could attain the power gained in earlier times. Also the author of several crime novels set in the Southwest (The Lethal Partner, 1996, etc.), Page executes his daunting task with a storyteller’s flair and a historian’s regard for demonstrable facts, but this is unlikely to displace such standards as Alvin Josephy’s 500 Nations or to satisfy specialists.

Not quite special enough to stand out in a very crowded field.

Pub Date: April 2, 2003

ISBN: 0-684-85576-3

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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

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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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