A fascinating, nuanced social history.

In her debut, Davis (History/Georgia State Univ.) suggests that anti-Semitism and Prohibition were parallel expressions of political disquiet during the turn of the last century.

As the nation's fifth-largest industry, alcohol was an important source of public revenue. The author cites statistics showing the explosive growth of retail liquor dealers: 90,000 in 1865, 175,000 in 1880 and nearly 200,000 in 1900. The industry offered an important niche for Jews from Central Europe who had practiced the trade in the old country and provided them a pathway for admission into American society despite obstacles such as the tie-ins between brewers and saloons. Davis describes the social networks and community relationships established by this early wave of American Jews who became leaders in their broader communities, practiced Reform Judaism while maintaining their ethnic and religious roots, and favored assimilation. While they supported moderation in the use of alcohol, they did not support Prohibition. “The anti-alcohol movement,” writes the author, “absorbed and tapped into populist anxieties about the concentration of capital and exploitation of labor and consumers.” She describes this as scapegoating immigrants who were blamed for the “increasingly urban and commercial nature of the American economy,” and it spawned anti-Semitic rhetoric, which painted “Jews as an alien and malevolent force in the American economy” that turned the drunken lower classes into their political pawns. Davis touches on strains within the Jewish community as later waves of Eastern European Jews rejected the religious liberalism of their Jewish predecessors. With Prohibition, most Jews left the industry, but bootleggers like the Bronfman family became wealthy and were accepted into high society, and the mafia flourished—led by Al Capone, “Lucky” Luciano, Meyer Lansky and others.

A fascinating, nuanced social history.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8147-2028-8

Page Count: 248

Publisher: New York Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011


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



Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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