Purposeful, insightful and tremendously useful, complete with an excellent bibliographic essay.

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A CONCISE HISTORY OF THE ARABS

A sympathetic, methodical distillation of Arab history that tries to get at the roots of the current East-West dysfunction.

British Arabist, lawyer and researcher McHugo refutes Bernard Lewis’ claim of a “clash of civilizations,” bemoaning the notion as emerging from prejudice and misunderstanding of the original meanings of the terms jihad and crusade. As Islam gained followers, creating a large empire, the intermingling of Muslim, Latin and Greek cultures was rich and diverse, not antithetical, he writes; in centers of learning like Baghdad and Cordoba, Arabic scholars worked alongside Christians and Jews to translate and interpret Aristotle and others. McHugo traces several factors that spelled the end of this golden age and led to dire future consequences: Northern Spain and Sicily were reconquered by Christian kingdoms; Turkish tribes gathered strength and numbers as they moved down from the steppes of Central Asia, followed by the Mongol hordes; sites held holy by both Latin Christendom and Islam were looted and destroyed. These traumatic events provoked defensiveness and a turning inward in the Muslims of Greater Syria, where mutually respectful convivencia was supplanted by a restrictive interpretation of Sharia, “the rigid and literalist streak in Islam with which we are so [currently] familiar.” Hence, the West took off, with Napoleon’s conquest of Egypt in 1789 as the beginning of a souring procession of deceptions of and humiliations for the Arabic people. McHugo moves briskly, delving into the political evolution of a remarkable number of Arab states, the growth of nationalism, debates between secularists and Islamists, the ideas of important reformers, the embittering results of the Six-Day War and, especially, the coming of the “age of autocrats,” which hardened Western hearts against the Arabs and goaded the rise of Islamism. He closes, however, with expressions of enormous hope for tolerance and reconciliation. The author includes maps and a glossary of Arabic terms.

Purposeful, insightful and tremendously useful, complete with an excellent bibliographic essay.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59558-946-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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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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