A solid study of violence and an even better study of the beginnings of California and its social makeup.

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ETERNITY STREET

VIOLENCE AND JUSTICE IN FRONTIER LOS ANGELES

Faragher (History/Yale Univ.; A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from Their American Homeland, 2005, etc.) investigates the most lethal place on the planet during the mid-19th century: Los Angeles.

The author provides a concise and edifying history of the California territory, beginning with the Spanish missionaries who tapped the expertise of converted mission Indians as their workforce. Their promise was to secularize the land and return it to the Indians; of course, that never happened. The rich landowners hired the Indians because they were the only ones capable of making the land productive. It was a time of rapid social change, with Indian workers and migrants from the south coming into the town to work. This change increased incidents of violence: Indian against Indian and incoming Mexicans against Californios. As Mexico won independence from Spain in 1821 and the Americans fought to annex California after the Mexican-American War, more migrants arrived, mostly Southerners accustomed to the brutalities of slavery. In the absence of a legitimate justice system, vigilance committees grew up based on codes of honor and vengeance. The Los Angeles Common Council accepted corrupt and ineffective law enforcement rather than hire more deputies and raise taxes to support them. The first deportation of undocumented immigrants occurred in 1840, and there were strict regulations against Indians and an abundance of men who were angry, volatile, and homicidal. Justice was parochial, dealing with the values and interests of groups, not the community. Vigilantism was an institutional feature encouraged by the press and condoned by authorities. Threading through this midcentury mayhem is the career of Judge Benjamin Hayes, whose strength of character and attempts to diffuse mob justice provided a small ray of hope. For fans of the Old West and frontier literature, Faragher provides a vivid and readable history.

A solid study of violence and an even better study of the beginnings of California and its social makeup.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-393-05136-0

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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