Brings to life a population of scheming officeholders, xenophobic Californians and frantic slaveholders, all of whom...

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THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH AND THE COMING OF THE CIVIL WAR

An ugly tale of gold, greed and politics in mid-19th-century America.

Richards (History/Univ. of Massachusetts) begins with a deadly 1859 duel between two prominent California Democrats: David S. Terry, chief judge of the state court, and U.S. Senator David Broderick. Like their state, their party and the rest of the country, they were divided over slavery. Nonetheless, wonders the author, how could angry words have led pro-slavery Terry to actually kill free-soiler Broderick? For the answer, he whisks us back to the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill and the ensuing “rush” to the region. He gives us glimpses of life in the camps, describes the various means of extracting ore from the ground and shows Big Mining muscling in to replace the rugged individual miners. But Richards is far more interested in explaining how the Gold Rush affected local and national politics. He tells the intricate story of California’s admission as a free state in 1850, a galvanizing moment in the contest for power between slave and non-slave states. He reminds us of the Wilmot Proviso, the Gadsden Purchase, the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Modestly incompetent presidents Fillmore and Buchanan stroll the stage. We follow the doings of the famous (John C. Frémont, Stephen A. Douglas, Jefferson Davis, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Abraham Lincoln) and the not-so-famous (William Gwin and John B. Weller). Richards closes with the duel, which free-soilers used to discredit pro-slavery Democrats as assassins. An epilogue traces California’s role in the congressional wrangling that ultimately led to the Civil War and describes Terry’s ironic death in 1889—shot by the bodyguard of a man he slapped in an attempt to incite another duel.

Brings to life a population of scheming officeholders, xenophobic Californians and frantic slaveholders, all of whom resorted to the ultimate frontier solution: violence.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2007

ISBN: 0-307-26520-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 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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