Ellis, a free-lance writer who is part Cherokee Indian, journeys on foot from Oklahoma to his hometown of Fort Payne, Alabama—symbolically retracing the 900-mile path his ancestors took on their forced odyssey out of the southern states in 1838. It had something to do with having recently turned 40; something to do with a vision he'd had while writing a play about one Cherokee's experience of the Trail of Tears; and something to do with the importance of feeling free to walk across America without fear of death by violence. Whatever the reasons, Ellis—a former motorcycle-gang member and a modern-day romantic—buses and hitches his way to the Cherokee Nation's capital of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, hoists his 50-pound pack, and starts off along the shoulder of a lonely rural road toward the Trail of Tears's origin and the 18,000 Cherokees' original home. Along the way, he reflects less on the fate of his ancestors who, unlike him, had to travel this route in the midst of a brutal winter and who died by the thousands of starvation, exposure, and disease than on his own renegade past in Alabama, New York, and Hollywood, and on the remarkably strange 20th-century folks he encounters along the way. From the wistful Texan who recounts the story of his abuse-ridden boyhood, to the Charles Manson look-alike charging along the road with a rock clutched in his fist, to the confused but nubile young member of a Missouri religious cult with whom Ellis falls briefly in lust—these are the inheritors of the Trail's violent legacy, and a stranger collection of people couldn't be invented. Arriving back in Fort Payne right on schedule, Ellis may have gained little new insight into his own past, but he brings home enough unusual experiences to chew on for 40 years to come. Peripatetic true confessions that hook the reader with their very ingenuousness—a genuine American tale.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-385-30448-X

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1991

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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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