Occasionally uneven in the narrative flow, but mostly profound and enjoyable reading.

GHOST DANCES

PROVING UP ON THE GREAT PLAINS

A young man charts the geography of his tumultuous childhood against the expansive backdrop of the Great Plains.

After his parents divorced, Garrett-Davis’ life was suddenly split between Pierre, S.D., and Portland, Ore. He spent much of his early years not only trying to process the abrupt dissolution of his family, but also keeping the secret of his mother’s lesbianism from the inherent backlash of South Dakota’s conservative culture. For years, the state’s right-wing governor, Bill Janklow, loomed like a flesh-and-bone boogeyman in the author’s mind. Despite the old hostilities, Garrett-Davis finds significant meaning in his home state’s “landscape of motion” and its long history of transient personalities. Deep sojourns into the weight and significance of nascent punk-rock record collections happily exist alongside intense observations about the demise of the great bison herds and even efforts to restart the Pleistocene epoch. Such meditations reach back further still, to the 65-million-year-old fossilized bones of a Tyrannosaurus Rex named Sue unearthed on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in 1990. Hiding a mother’s true identity, enduring a father’s simmering hostility and resisting South Dakota’s often oppressive culture undoubtedly made life hard for the author in his intensely introspective youth. After becoming firmly established in his new life in the East, Garrett-Davis nevertheless finds himself gazing at the Bronx Zoo's captive bison, struggling to grasp the narrative of his own life on the Great Plains. He largely succeeds, recognizing that seemingly opposite concepts of leaving and returning, embracing and rejecting, building and destroying may not be as mutually exclusive as they seem.

Occasionally uneven in the narrative flow, but mostly profound and enjoyable reading.

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-19984-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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