A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding...

MAYFLOWER

A STORY OF COURAGE, COMMUNITY, AND WAR

Known for his special talent with a sea story, National Book Award–winner Philbrick (Sea of Glory, 2003, etc.) here uses the Pilgrims’ perilous Atlantic crossing as mere prelude to an even more harrowing tale of survival in an alien land.

From the voyage of the Mayflower to the conclusion 56 years later of King Philip’s War, this is a sensitive treatment of the transplanted Europeans’ encountering of and clashes with the native tribes of the New World, all of which prefigured in many important respects the development of later American colonies. The strict discipline of the Pilgrims’ intense spiritual commitment, responsible in many ways for the colony’s initial success, inevitably gave rise to later political and religious schisms. Notwithstanding the forging of the Mayflower Compact, their political and economic lifeline stretched, vulnerably, across the ocean. More than anything, survival depended on alliances with Native Americans, and Philbrick excels at exploding commonly accepted notions about this complicated relationship. The Pilgrims were by no means the first Europeans in New England. Explorers and fishermen had already brought contagious diseases to the continent and decimated local populations. Nor had these visitors arrived at some Eden innocent of conflict. The tribes had engaged in diplomacy and warfare for centuries; they used the Pilgrims to shift balances of power among themselves. In Philbrick’s graceful retelling of a story many think they already know, the virtues and vices of each culture are given their due, and the complexities of the conflict between and among them explored. Prominent roles are assigned to such well-known names as Squanto, Samoset, Massasoit and his son Philip, who (with the help of obtuse Governor Josiah Winslow) touched off the regional war that bears his name. The Indians contended with the likes of William Bradford, Miles Standish and Benjamin Church, who appears to have lived the role of Natty Bumpo well before James Fenimore Cooper imagined such a character.

A remarkably sensitive account: 21st-century readers could ask for no more insightful reinterpretation of America’s founding myth.

Pub Date: May 9, 2006

ISBN: 0-670-03760-5

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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