THE SEVEN STATES OF CALIFORNIA

A NATURAL AND HUMAN HISTORY

With the light, revealing touch of a master reporter, Fradkin (Wanderings of an Environmental Journalist, 1993, etc.) takes the Golden State's measure, top to bottom. For the author, California is seven states rolled into one, with landscape playing the defining role: Deserts (southeast), Sierra (east), Land of Fire (northwest), Land of Water (north coast), the Great Valley (central interior), the Fractured Province (central coast), and the Profligate Province (south coast). Each of these substates draws its internal cohesiveness not only from geography but also from economics, customs, heritage, and culture. In each region Fradkin has discovered some powerful landscape element, a particularly distinctive node of pyschogeographical intensity, such as the deserts' dry lakes, with their intaglios and bombing ranges; the sierra passes that tested every westward-bound emigrant's mettle; the divisive, despoiling role of timber in the Land of Water. Each of these features serves as a lodestone for chunks of history (Fradkin judiciously employs fragments of period diaries to give the narrative pungency) and for his own detailed, filigreed observations. The text is salted with shrewd minibiographies, of everyone from William Mulholland (the man who brought water to LA and trouble to Jack Nicholson in Chinatown) and Harry Chandler (owner of the Los Angeles Times) to survivors of the infamous Donner Party and the fishermen of Humboldt Bay. Bitingly ever-present is the explosive racial hatred that has marked California's history since Europeans moved in: Tensions between whites and Native Americans, Chinese, African-Americans, Japanese, East Indians, Mexicans, and Filipinos have roiled and boiled through the centuries. California might be ``beguiling and lyrically beautiful,'' but it is also suspect terrain: chaotic and unstable, a violent medley, a land of extremes. Fascinating, intimate, and readable in the extreme. (30 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: July 24, 1995

ISBN: 0-8050-1947-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 1995

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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