Neither the first attempt to demythologize Joseph, nor the last word on his people, but an intriguing study of a man and a...

CHIEF JOSEPH & THE FLIGHT OF THE NEZ PERCE

THE UNTOLD STORY OF AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY

A revisionist account of Nez Perce history and one of its most controversial figures.

Under Chief Joseph’s leadership, the schoolbook version of the story goes, hundreds of Nez Perce Indians outmaneuvered U.S. soldiers for three months, making their way to Canada. But on October 5, 1877, after a bloody five-day battle, Chief Joseph admitted defeat. The speech he made upon his surrender earned him a spot as one of America’s great orators. Indeed, white America made a hero out of Joseph, affecting what Nerburn (The Wisdom of Native Americans, not reviewed, etc.) calls a “cultural canonization.” The chief was lauded for his wit and his courage—once he was no longer a threat to the designs of the U.S. government. The Nez Perce themselves, the author notes, rejected the lionizing of Chief Joseph, and have been, in fact, rather ambivalent about him. Many resent that white America made an icon of Joseph but largely erased the Nez Perce people from the national story. Some natives even revile Joseph, blaming him for surrendering. In short, the familiar narrative is, at best, oversimplified. Nerburn, therefore, aims to provide not just a biography of Joseph, but also the story of the Nez Perce: their complicated and wily but largely trusting relationship with white Americans throughout the 19th century, their horrific and brave flight from Idaho. The author’s most innovative interpretations come in the final 75 pages, in which he charts the “marketing” of Joseph and the commodification of all things related to the chief. The man who bought Joseph’s horse knew that he could sell that horse’s offspring for beaucoup dollars; the chief signed autographs for the white tourists who came to ogle the Indians in their post-surrender squalor; he courted reporters and, according to Nerburn, enjoyed his fame.

Neither the first attempt to demythologize Joseph, nor the last word on his people, but an intriguing study of a man and a legend.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-06-051301-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...

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 Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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