Drawing on archival documents and contemporary and recent histories, Atkinson has written a compelling narrative, but his...

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MASSACRE ON THE MERRIMACK

HANNAH DUSTON'S CAPTIVITY AND REVENGE IN COLONIAL AMERICA

A woman’s life in dangerous times.

In 1697, Hannah Duston, a Haverhill, Massachusetts, wife and mother, was abducted by Abenaki Indians and forcibly marched north toward French-occupied Canada to be ransomed. Her week-old infant was brutally murdered during the march, other captives were beaten to death, and the survivors were starved and abused. Desperate, Duston managed to take revenge, slaying not only her captors, but squaws and children, as well, hacking off scalps for monetary reward. Journalist and fiction writer Atkinson (Writing/Boston Univ.; Memoirs of a Rugby-Playing Man, 2012, etc.) narrates Duston’s story in gory detail, aiming to convey “the moral truth of what happened” and allow readers to judge whether Duston’s act of savagery was justified. Her contemporaries had no doubt: Cotton Mather wrote a sympathetic account; Maryland’s governor sent Duston an appreciative gift of three pewter chargers; in recognition of her valor and the scalps, the General Court of Massachusetts awarded her 50 pounds. Atkinson implies his own admiration, as well, in presenting Duston’s experience “through the lens of the prejudices, preconceptions, and preoccupations of the seventeenth-century colonial settlers and the Indians.” Although he acknowledges that Indians had suffered “decades of insult and abuse,” were driven from their land, “preyed upon by corrupt traders and swindlers, [and] demeaned by colonial authorities,” he still depicts them as terrorizing savages: marauding, whooping with “devilish noise,” ruthlessly murdering with axes, clubs, hatchets, pikes, knives, and rifles given to them by the French. The French, greedy and bellicose, inflamed Indian hatred of the colonists and disrupted their traditional hunting and gathering by seducing them into the lucrative fur trade. The competition for animal hides, Atkinson maintains, pitted tribe against tribe.

Drawing on archival documents and contemporary and recent histories, Atkinson has written a compelling narrative, but his reprisal of 17th-century prejudices makes for discomfiting reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4930-0322-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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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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