A handy, often diverting collection.

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HISTORY IN THE MAKING

AN ABSORBING LOOK AT HOW AMERICAN HISTORY HAS CHANGED IN THE TELLING OVER THE LAST 200 YEARS

Excerpts from American-history textbooks from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries trace the ways that history has been written and rewritten over time.

Insofar as they can be known, the facts of history remain constant, but each generation interprets for itself the meaning of the past, emphasizing or obscuring characters, issues and episodes to reflect the latest twitch in the sociological/political zeitgeist. Ward (History/Vincennes Univ.) here provides excerpts from a range of history textbooks, addressing topics like the American Revolution, Native-American relations, slavery and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. (In a chapter titled “Slavery in America,” for example, the author excerpts passages from nine textbooks published from 1851 to 1995.) For the most part, he deals with well-known events (the Boston Massacre, the last stand at the Alamo) and characters (Washington, Lincoln). Other subjects—the Caroline Affair, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend, the Espionage Act—will be only dimly recalled by most. The excerpted materials are preceded by some rather thin analysis. Readers in search of a richer perspective on the subject would do better while Peter Charles Hoffer’s Past Imperfect (2004). Still, the primary sources Ward provides are a good starting point for anyone interested in history and subjectivity.

A handy, often diverting collection.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 1-59558-044-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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