A richly informative investigation of a tragic episode.

CALIFORNIA STANDOFF

MINERS, INDIANS AND FARMERS AT WAR, 1850-1865

Desperate Native Americans and settlers fight bloody battles for land, vengeance, and acorns in this historical study.

Shover (Exploring Chico’s Past and Other Essays, 2005, etc.), a former political science professor, examines the violent clashes in Northern California’s Butte and Tehama counties between Maidu bands and whites flooding into the area after the gold rush. Underlying the bloodshed was a dynamic of dispossession. White farmers excluded the Maidu from the Sierra Nevada foothills and Sacramento River Valley, denying them access to oak groves where they harvested their crop of acorns and forcing them to winter in the barren mountains. Meanwhile, white miners built dams in mountain streams, ruining the fishing the Maidu relied on. The Maidu responded with raids on white settlements to steal food, rustle cattle, burn houses, and, on occasion, murder families. Settlers retaliated tenfold with expeditions that led to massacres that killed hundreds of Maidu over the years, many of them innocent of any offense, culminating in forced removals to reservations under appalling conditions in which numerous people died of hunger and disease. Within this broader narrative of racial strife, the author paints a fine-grained, engrossing portrait of a more complex reality of mixed motives and shifting alliances. Different Maidu “tribelets” fought one another, with Mountain Maidu attacking Valley Maidu, who worked peacefully on white ranches and fought alongside settlers (and sometimes betrayed them). White miners, some of whom had children with Native American women, often collaborated with the Maidu and opposed farmers’ retaliation. At the center of the action is the ambiguous figure of John Bidwell, a land baron who sheltered Maidu and opposed their transfer to reservations—mainly because he wanted their cheap labor for his operations. There is enough real-life drama in this sprawling saga for a half-dozen anti-Westerns, with brutal violence on all sides, economic exploitation, political chicanery, treachery, and persistent uncertainty about who was a friend or enemy among suspicious factions who barely understood one another. The absorbing account reads as a more evenly matched contest than might be supposed. Compensating for their lack of numbers and modern weapons, the warlike Maidu deployed superb guerrilla tactics, running circles around settler posses blundering through their rugged canyons—until dedicated white trackers learned their methods and caught up with them in their mountain redoubts. Drawing on a wealth of documentary sources along with Native American oral histories, Shover provides a well-researched, intricate, and nuanced account of the kaleidoscopic conflict. She teases out the niceties of who killed whom and why, prunes exaggerations and misinterpretations of previous historians, and is cleareyed but fair in her judgments. At times, her narrative is confusingly crosscut and fragmented, and her prose, while lucid and brisk, is somewhat dry and academic; it can seem a bit flat for the events described. (Bidwell’s associate Harmon Good “made prisoners of a small” Native American “child and its mother whom…he intended to deliver to Bidwell’s rancheria. However, when the woman refused to go with them, one of the men killed her, so they took the child.”) Still, this is a fine addition to the scholarly literature on this epic of frontier injustice.

A richly informative investigation of a tragic episode.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-935807-15-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Stansbury Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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