The Mexican-American War is too little studied today. Guardino’s swift-moving, broad-ranging history is a welcome remedy.

THE DEAD MARCH

A HISTORY OF THE MEXICAN-AMERICAN WAR

The history of a war of expansion and empire that reverberates today in talk of border walls and deportation.

Viewed through a retrospective lens, the American invasion of Mexico in 1846, an act of single-sided aggression, has eerie parallels with later incursions in Vietnam and Iraq. For one thing, all were adventures that enjoyed public support at first but that lost backing as time wore on. It was also precipitated, writes Guardino (History/Indiana Univ.; The Time of Liberty: Popular Political Culture in Oaxaca, 1750-1850, 2005, etc.) in this vigorous, readable account, by an American president who “had to hide crucial information and engage in intense partisan maneuvering to start the war.” Moreover, during the two years of conflict, Mexicans waged a fierce guerrilla war, while in response, the Americans “increasingly made civilians responsible for the activities of guerrillas” and committed terrible reprisals. The American soldiers, writes the author, “saw guerrilla warfare not as proof of Mexican nationalism but instead as proof that many Mexicans were violent and treacherous racial inferiors.” In a narrative that blends set-piece accounts of battle, profiles of individual combatants, and wide-ranging explorations of larger issues, Guardino examines the inevitability of American victory, which proved Pyrrhic. Some of our received wisdom about the conflict, he argues, does not hold up. The Mexican forces, for example, didn’t break and run at every encounter but in the main fought capably, especially the members of the volunteer militias and National Guard. Mexico, only recently independent of Spain, was defeated in the end as much by a lack of materials and funds as by force of arms. Furthermore, the author writes, the Mexican-American War preceded and in some ways produced two civil wars, one in Mexico and the other in the U.S. The Mexican war revealed how disunited the U.S. was, with sharp regional distinctions and, of course, the issue of slavery looming over the whole enterprise.

The Mexican-American War is too little studied today. Guardino’s swift-moving, broad-ranging history is a welcome remedy.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-674-97234-6

Page Count: 500

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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