Rigorous, tenacious research uncovers a grim story of human suffering.




Veteran magazine editor Tayman debuts with a cold-eyed account of the Hawaiian government’s century-long forced quarantine and effective imprisonment of lepers.

Leprosy, called by the Hawaiian people “the sickness that is a crime” because it leads to gross disfigurement, probably arrived with the whaling ships to the islands by the early 1800s. It was believed to be incurable and wildly infectious; in fact, it is caused by a bacteria and communicable only to persons with a genetic susceptibility. After the islands’ decimation by a smallpox epidemic in 1853, King Kamehameha V pledged to preserve the health of his subjects, and the Board of Health, prodded by the alarms sounded by Dr. William Hillebrand, moved to criminalize those showing symptoms of leprosy. Beginning in 1866,victims were arrested, isolated and exiled to the rocky, barren island of Molokai. The first dozen were deposited in a deserted village with no medical facilities and inadequate food; as incurables, they were expected to die. Many did indeed perish as the population swelled: Patients split into factions, fought for food and rebelled against the beleaguered superintendent. During the colony’s most populous era, in the late 1880s, Molokai was home to 1,144 inmates and had 432 buildings; it became habitable, even comfortable, according to Robert Louis Stevenson and other famous observers. Tayman offers numerous fascinating personal stories of people arrested and exiled to Molokai, sometimes with mistaken leprosy diagnoses. He profiles the tireless Flemish priest Father Damien, who caught the disease himself and died in 1889, and gives chilling details about medical experiments performed to isolate the leprosy bacilli. The author does not neglect the political ramifications of a leper colony growing in size at a time when America had its eye on annexing Hawaii and turning it into a vacation paradise. He hauntingly depicts the devastation of an ill-understood disease and helps demystify its victims, too often viewed as “sinful, shameful, and unclean.”

Rigorous, tenacious research uncovers a grim story of human suffering.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-3300-X

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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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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