Though it may be too academic for some readers, this is an eye-opening work of American history.




An enlightening scholarly study of American Indian history that gets at the root tensions underlying the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee.

Why were the Americans so concerned about the Ghost Dance religion practiced so enthusiastically by the Lakota Sioux and other Great Plains tribes in the 1880s? In this astute new appraisal, Warren (Western U.S. History/Univ. of California, Davis; Buffalo Bill's America: William Cody and the Wild West Show, 2005, etc.) finds in this religion—based on messianic visions by a northern Paiute in Nevada named Wovoka—a shred of hope for Indians denuded of their ancestral power and land, herded into reservations, and stripped of their ability to live by the hunting-and-gathering methods of their elders. The dance took elements of Christianity, such as the messiah figure, and wove them into a joyful communion involving movement and visions of horses and buffalo. Though the dancers could become frenzied and fall unconscious, Warren insists that it was essentially a peaceful dance, stressing harmony within this jagged new age of American industry, wage work, and deracination. However, many Americans—since Indians were not considered citizens until 1924, Warren does not include Indians as Americans here—felt threatened by the dances and banned the gatherings as being warlike, leading to the tragic misunderstanding between the military and hundreds of Lakota at the Pine Ridge Reservation in late 1890. Yet unlike the conclusions by authors and historians such as Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Warren does not see the Ghost Dance as the death knell of Indian history or spirituality but rather the beginning of Indians’ attempt to live and adapt to a strange new world in which literacy was necessary and industrial capitalism was the driving economic force. Warren also looks at the work of anthropologist James Mooney, who chronicled the passing of “authentic” Indian ways during this era by first studying the Ghost Dance.

Though it may be too academic for some readers, this is an eye-opening work of American history.

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-465-01502-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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

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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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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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