Keith does not exaggerate its historical significance but delivers an admirable account of a Southern city doing its best to...




The story of the devastation caused by the yellow fever epidemic in Memphis in 1878, which blighted the city for a generation.

Benefiting from an era when newspapers flourished and everyone wrote letters, Keith (History/Bloomsburg Univ.; Rich Man's War, Poor Man's Fight: Race, Class, and Power in the Rural South during the First World War, 2003, etc.) mines these rich sources to produce an extremely detailed, predictably macabre account. A regular feature of Southern life, yellow fever epidemics began in spring (when mosquitoes became active) and vanished with the first frost. Until scientists discovered the cause in 1900, doctors blamed poisonous emanations from rotting trash, filth and sewage, all of which Memphis possessed in abundance. Taxing hardworking citizens to provide free government services (e.g., sewers, garbage collection, clean water) provoked as much outrage then as today, and Memphis’ city government remaining stubbornly opposed. Everyone worried when yellow fever reached New Orleans in early summer and proceeded slowly northward. Despite ineffectual quarantine efforts, the first Memphis case appeared in August. Within weeks, 30,000 of the city’s 50,000 citizens fled, most of the rest fell ill, and 5,000 died. Disaster historians work best describing the background and the consequences but struggle to make the events themselves stand out, and Keith is no exception. The middle 150 pages feature the usual relentless parade of gruesome suffering, noble sacrifice and bad behavior (volunteers poured in; most died; Catholic priests remained and died; most Protestant clergy fled). Local heroes organized relief, and the nation responded generously.

Keith does not exaggerate its historical significance but delivers an admirable account of a Southern city doing its best to deal with a frightening, incomprehensible epidemic.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-60819-222-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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