A pathbreaking scholarly work, by one of the nation’s leading historians of the interaction between Native Americans and European newcomers in early America. In this deeply researched book, Bancroft Prize—winning historian Merrell (The Indians’ New World, not reviewed) unearths the lives of the go-betweens—translators, diplomats, traders, and others—who for a time linked the disparate peoples of colonial America into a network of functioning relationships. This volume is also an extended essay on the meaning and significance of woodlands and wilderness to New World natives and colonists. With Pennsylvania as its focus, the book traces the lives and activities of people of whom many historians will never have heard—of transcultural Indians (such as Shekallamy) and colonists (such as Conrad Weiser) who had “unmatched ability to negotiate the frontier’s cultural terrain.” That terrain was a forested borderland of language, trade, religion, settlement, and treaty-making. And its go-betweening inhabitants, whom Merrell brilliantly brings to life, faced not just formidable obstacles of culture but the more tangible ones of food, travel, lodging, and safety as they tried to create comity between people of vastly different ways and thought. But cultural borders were never to be fully crossed, nor peace easily secured. Whatever these dedicated go-betweens might attempt, armed skirmishes, then war, eventually came to the colony by the 1760s, and no go-betweens could save the natives from the resulting disaster. Never before has this generally well-known story been told this way—as a history of identity, acculturation, nature, and words. Anthropologists, ethnographers, even naturalists and linguists, as well as historians, will welcome and mine the book for years. Written in language as robust as a monograph will allow, the book is a stunning achievement. (30 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-393-04676-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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