Comprehensive and compassionate—an essential text of American history and culture.




Holland Times arts critic Gill (American History and Literature/Manhattan School of Music) charts the astonishing transformations, upheavals, revolutions and continual renaissances that have affected the uptown terrain and population for hundreds of years.

In 1609, Henry Hudson glimpsed the Manhattan shoreline and exchanged fire with the local Indians, thus commencing the cultural clashes that continue in the present. The author traces the story of the area from its geological history to the current times of Al Sharpton (who fares poorly here). In the early chapters, Gill summarizes the stories of the Algonquin people and the original Dutch settlers, who laid out their New Haarlem in the mid 17th century. Then the British decided they owned the island, took over and fecklessly renamed New Haarlem “Lancaster,” a name that didn’t last long. The author follows the colonial history, the significance of the region in the American Revolution (Washington won a key victory at Harlem Heights) and the transformations wrought by the New York and Harlem Railroad and commerce (and greed). As Gill notes, Harlem was for many decades a center of recreation for downtowners, featuring plentiful forests and beautiful geological formations. Soon, it was human entertainment—music, drama, dancing, art and the allures of alcohol and assorted illicit behaviors—that became the principal attraction. Mansions rose, and the wealthy partied hard. Then Harlem began to attract a wide assortment of minorities—Latinos, African-Americans, Jews from Eastern Europe, Italians. By the early 19th century, more and more blacks were calling Harlem home, and as the economy cracked, racial fireworks commenced, raged throughout the Civil War and far beyond. As Gill writes, however, the area has long been home to an amazing assortment of talented individuals—politicians (Marcus Garvey), athletes (Lew Alcindor), writers (Langston Hughes), musicians and performers (Paul Robeson), intellectuals (W.E.B. Du Bois) criminals (Casper Holstein).

Comprehensive and compassionate—an essential text of American history and culture.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8021-1910-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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