A short book admirable for wide research that you can read in a day, if you don’t get bogged down in the footnotes.



Toler (Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War, 2016, etc.) seeks out courageous women of history who “have been pushed into the shadows, hidden in the footnotes, or half-erased.”

The historical records are thin; men don’t like to admit that a woman could lead them, let alone conquer them. As such, victorious women are often ignored by history, and the author provides examples from the second millennium B.C.E. up through Russian women aviators. Even legendary warriors—e.g., Fu Hao of 13th-century China—aren’t always identified as women in the records. “The main thing that struck me when I looked at women warriors across cultures rather than in isolation is how many examples there are and how lightly they sit on our collective awareness,” writes Toler. Throughout the book, she uses numerous footnotes, asides, comments, absurdities, and personal opinions that should have been included in the main text. However, once readers learn to scan them, they will clearly see a pattern of women who have consistently stepped up to fight, for a variety of reasons, including revenge or loss of family, lands, or honor. Two useful examples are Boudica, who almost drove the Romans out of England, and Tomyris, who routed and killed the Persian king Cyrus the Great. Other women have fought to resist a takeover, becoming national icons in the process—e.g., Lakshmibai, who joined the Indian Rebellion in 1857. As the author suggests, female samurai and Viking-age Scandinavian leaders may have been more prevalent than we’ll ever know. Furthermore, they didn’t just dig earthworks, throw boiling oil over the ramparts, and defend castles against sieges; they also fought in place of absent husbands and joined armies to make money, own property, or get an education. Still others went to fight just because they enjoyed it.

A short book admirable for wide research that you can read in a day, if you don’t get bogged down in the footnotes.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8070-6432-0

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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