Swift-moving prose along a twisting storyline lends this brilliant book the feel of a mystery.

A BRAVE AND CUNNING PRINCE

THE GREAT CHIEF OPECHANCANOUGH AND THE WAR FOR AMERICA

An accomplished work of scholarly detection that plays out against the background of the English colonization of Virginia.

Opechancanough, the center of Virginia historian Horn’s narrative, was abducted from his Chesapeake Bay homeland by Spanish sailors in the 1550s and taken to Mexico and Spain, where he met King Philip II. Recorded in the Spanish annals as Paquiquineo, a name simplified as Don Luis, he converted to Catholicism and promised to help the Spanish establish a colony on Powhatan lands, the site of a tight confederacy of Native nations. After returning there, however, he organized the massacre of Jesuit priests who had established a mission not far from present-day Richmond. The brother of the king, and in the line of royal succession, Opechancanough then mounted a long war of resistance against the English. Horn ventures two potentially controversial suggestions: first, that Don Luis and Opechancanough were one and the same, since some historians have argued that they were not; and second, that Opechancanough and his elite band of warriors were responsible for the disappearance of the Roanoke Colony, long a matter of historical speculation. He provides convincing evidence for both assertions, building on a portrait of Virginia and its neighbors that, at the time of the European arrival, was the site of a sophisticated political and economic network whose participants were well aware of distant events and who coordinated to fight the newcomers. Some familiar figures appear, including John Smith and Pocahontas, on both of whom Horn sheds new light as players in a drama that would unfold over decades. He portrays Opechancanough as a man who, having seen the subjugation of Native peoples and the enslavement of Africans in Mexico, knew exactly what was coming on those English ships and fought to prevent their successful settlement—which, thanks to both the divisions of the English civil war and Opechancanough’s fierce fighting, almost didn’t happen.

Swift-moving prose along a twisting storyline lends this brilliant book the feel of a mystery.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-465-03890-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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