A riveting addition to the history of the search for freedom in the Americas.

BLOOD ON THE RIVER

A CHRONICLE OF MUTINY AND FREEDOM ON THE WILD COAST

A microhistory of scholarly significance, this action-packed book enlarges understanding of the New World’s history in the era of international conflict on the eve of transformative Western revolutions.

Every historian hopes to stumble on records that alter understanding of the past. Through industry and luck, Kars, a historian of slavery, has done just that. Her discovery of never-used Dutch archives informs this tale of a previously unknown slave uprising on South America’s northern coast. Written in lively, detailed prose, the narrative offers fresh looks at slavery in the New World and, equally important, slaves’ efforts to free themselves from bondage. The “collective armed rebellion” along the Berbice River in today’s Guyana, then a Dutch colony, started in 1763. Although it eventually failed, the violent insurrection drew in native tribes, Spanish and Dutch forces from Europe, and colonists from neighboring settlements. The incident is historically significant because the slaves who took independence into their own hands controlled an entire colony for over a year—something unprecedented until Haitian slaves began freeing themselves in 1791 in a successful 13-year struggle. The novelty of this book is the author’s presentation of the rebellion’s records: an incredible 900 slave testimonies previously unknown and unused until Kars unearthed them. They contain the words and voices of the mutinous slaves, voices rarely captured with such fidelity and in such numbers in the archives of other insurrections. It’s these voices, and Kars’ skill in bringing them to life, that keeps the text from being a dry academic study. So, too, does the story’s classic tragic arc: dashes for freedom, alliances between slaves and Indigenous tribes, in-fighting and betrayals, heroic leaders, barbarities on all sides, and deflating defeat. Though the rebellion failed, the Berbice colony never recovered from the costs of defeating the uprising. It was a harbinger of things to come.

A riveting addition to the history of the search for freedom in the Americas.

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62097-459-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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