ALL OUR YESTERDAYS

A CENTURY OF FAMILY LIFE IN AN AMERICAN SMALL TOWN

A remarkable, often poignant—but never sentimental—chronicle from a historian (University of Connecticut; America's Business, 1984, etc.) and his wife of life as it once was in their small Connecticut hometown of Hammond. The text is marred only by some clumsy writing and information overload. Presented with an amazingly comprehensive collection of letters and other memorabilia belonging to the Taintor family, from whose descendants the Robertsons bought their home in 1967, the couple used this treasure trove as a basis to write the history not only of their home but also of a particular place and time. The house—built circa 1796 by the first Taintors to settle in Hammond- -is in itself a record of changing fashions, increased fortunes, and evolving technology. By 1820, the Taintors' more elevated status led to an extensive remodeling and modernizing: The old stone chimney was replaced by six brick ones, and an elegant front staircase was built. The Robertsons record not only these architectural changes but also the familiar cycles of birth and death, wealth and poverty. They also note cultural changes— pointing out, for example, that not until the late 19th century were Christmas and weddings celebrated with all the trappings that we think of as timeless. The authors describe how Hammond, once a busy regional center—the town reached its maximum population of 1,379 in 1800—became a typical small New England town as the declining fertility of the land and the lack of economic opportunity led to an exodus during the early 19th century—an exodus that the Taintors joined as first one or two family members, then entire generations, moved to the big cities or out West. Meanwhile, Hammond's old family homes became summer places where widely scattered families gathered and briefly re-created the ancestral notions of home and hearth. History from laundry lists to family letters, but no less riveting than that of more sublime pedigree. Despite its flaws: a landmark portrait of small-town America.

Pub Date: April 28, 1993

ISBN: 0-06-019017-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1993

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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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