Students of exploration and world cultures will find value here.



A scholarly survey of the current state of knowledge on the ancient peopling of Oceania.

Blending ethnohistory, archaeology, and linguistics, anthropologist Thomas asks the big questions about “a civilization that has seldom been recognized as such.” Who were its progenitors? Where did they come from? How did they accomplish such daring acts of navigation and exploration? To the first two questions, the author reaches far back into the past to study the dispersal of humans out of Africa and into Southeast Asia, from which protohominids such as Homo floresiensis, dubbed the “hobbit” for their short stature, fanned out into the islands of the South China Sea and what is now Indonesia. From Papua New Guinea, modern humans of the sapiens variety began to sail to nearby islands, usually keeping sight of land. The ancestors of the modern Polynesians, an Indigenous people who settled in what is now Taiwan, did them and the people of the Lapita culture one better. Using a sophisticated knowledge of the stars and the movement of ocean currents, they sailed all the way across the Pacific over generations. Thomas notes that in early encounters with Polynesians, European explorers theorized about their origins while marveling at the accomplishments of these sailors, concluding that “a single ‘great nation’ had dispersed itself across the vast ocean” because of the pronounced cultural continuities among the peoples who settled places as remote as Rapa Nui and New Zealand. Even so, as Thomas astutely observes, there were also profound differences. The Hawaiians developed a near-feudal royal system, for instance, “very different from the comparatively decentralized political forms that emerged in the Marquesas and among New Zealand Maori.” The author’s academic tone makes the book largely of interest to specialists, though his view that the Polynesians have long been “archipelago dwellers” well aware of their distant relatives on other atolls and high islands brings a welcome world-systems approach to Oceania, an understudied region.

Students of exploration and world cultures will find value here.

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5416-1983-8

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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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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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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