A mixed bag of modern historical essays and contemporary journalistic accounts of the 1930s Dust Bowl. Perhaps the greatest environmental disaster to befall the US, the so-called Dust Bowl, resulted from poor farming practices, livestock overgrazing, and drought. “In its narrowest technical sense,” the editors write, “the term Dust Bowl refers only to a small district with reddish-brown soils in northeastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, and the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma during the 1930s.” Yet, thanks to the writings of John Steinbeck and the photographs of Dorothea Lange, among other chroniclers, the image of the Dust Bowl spread to cover a much greater area as a dominant Depression image. With the arrival of the Dust Bowl, formerly productive topsoil floated off on the winds for hundreds of miles in all directions, forcing rural Americans already hard hit by economic disaster to abandon their farms and make for the cities or, in the case of the “Okies,” for the fields and orchards of California. As several of the newspaper and magazine accounts included in this volume attest, the exiles did not always leave easily. In Nebraska, for example, writes Lief Dahl in the New Republic of January 18, 1933, displaced field hands formed a leftist “Farmers’ Holiday movement” to battle bank foreclosures, while Margaret Bourke-White, writing for the Nation, describes the untoward sight of Kansas farmers feeding tumbleweeds to their starving cattle. The journalism included in this volume is of a very high quality, politically charged and historically rich. The historical interpretations are less interesting, unless you happen to have a passion for statistics on Protestant church memberships in Haskell County, Kan., circa 1936. Still, a useful resource compiled by three academics for students of American history, particularly concerning the rise of the populist political movement. (8 b&w photos, 2 line drawings, 13 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: March 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-87081-507-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Univ. Press of Colorado

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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