A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in...

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BECOMING AMERICA

THE REVOLUTION BEFORE 1776

In a thoughtful, erudite survey of colonial history, Butler (Awash in a Sea of Faith, not reviewed) traces the formation of many of America's modern social characteristics in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary society.

Americans today think of the colonial period, if at all, as a time remote from modern America, in which society was unimaginably different from ours. Butler argues persuasively that America during the late colonial period (1680–1776) rapidly developed a variegated culture that displayed distinctive traits of modern America, among them vigorous religious pluralism, bewildering ethnic diversity, tremendous inequalities of wealth, and a materialistic society with pervasively commercial values. Butler reviews the growth in population during this last half of the colonial period: while most settlers in 1680 were of English origin, by 1776 the British colonies were populated by a polyglot population of peoples from the British Isles, continental Europe, and Africa, as well as the indigenous Indian population. At the same time the population diversified and the economy changed in complex ways: the period saw such diverse developments as rapid growth in artisan and craft skills, the development of a large middle class, the growth of professional classes, widespread urbanization with attendant poverty, and the institutionalization of African slavery, formerly a sporadic practice not easily distinguishable from indentured servitude. The colonials developed democratic political institutions of surprising vigor, especially provincial and local assemblies, while royal governors were mostly irrelevant and sometimes incompetent. Frontier wars with France reinforced cultural and political differences with Britain while forging a sense of shared American nationhood that resulted in the Revolutionary movement.

A sweeping, well-researched analysis of the transformative changes wrought by immigration, war, and cultural change in colonial America.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00091-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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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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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

THE LIBRARY BOOK

An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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