A carefully framed examination of Indian-hating and the white savages who were “in the service of white civilization.”

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AMERICAN LEVIATHAN

EMPIRE, NATION, AND REVOLUTIONARY FRONTIER

Think not Melville but Hobbes: a provocative study of how the war-of-each-against-all on the western frontier of America shaped the revolutionary nation.

It’s understandable that Thomas Quick should have disappeared from the history books. Writes Griffin (History/Ohio Univ.): “The master narratives we have of the American Revolution fail to contain Tom Quick because they cannot contain him”—cannot, it seems, because we would not like knowing what he tells us about ourselves. Quick was a notorious Indian killer who “trolled the woods for victims” and begged, on his deathbed, to have an Indian, any Indian, brought within shooting distance of him. Griffin notes that that western frontier, meaning mostly Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, was a savage place, and the savage Americans who spilled out into the territory did not like to hear from the British crown that it properly belonged to the Indians. Britain attempted to maintain the peace by building a chain of forts and other “pockets of civility” west of which civilians would not be allowed to settle, but a white populace, spurred on by Quick and the Paxton Boys and other frontier-tamers who were not inclined to “wait for the day when civility would transform Indian culture,” slaughtered just about any Indian whose path they crossed. In the revolutionary and immediate postrevolutionary era, justice occasionally prevailed and such killers were punished; more usually, by Griffin’s account, makeshift genocide was tolerated, so much so that it was almost sanctioned. Officially, the government may have tried to foster good relations with Indians on the frontier, but it made no effort to restrain the killers generically called “the Virginians,” who had won the battle of hearts and minds among their fellow whites.

A carefully framed examination of Indian-hating and the white savages who were “in the service of white civilization.”

Pub Date: April 17, 2007

ISBN: 0-8090-9515-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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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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