ASHES OF WARS

Yakimov tracks several dozen family members through a century’s worth of Balkan history, from 1890 through 2009, through civil strife, two world wars and the collapse of communism.

As in her first book (Dreams and Shadows, 2006), here Yakimov draws on her personal recollections and accounts from relatives and friends to create a full-bodied tapestry of stories, woven into and around the history of Bulgaria. Readers who know little about the Balkan region will learn much, but could improve their understanding by reading some supplemental material as well. After a plodding first section, the second details the 1949 escape of 23 people from Bulgaria, where nationalization was underway, to Yugoslavia, where political uncertainty ruled but freedom seemed more likely. The refugees, most of whom were related to the author, found more hardship in Yugoslavia’s work camps. Ultimately, several of the group emigrated to Canada and the United States, where they found living conditions in stark contrast to those they left behind. Throughout the book, Yakimov’s descriptions place readers firmly in each scene so they can smell the warm earth at harvest time or feel the distrust in a neighbor’s gaze. But while many scenes are alive with details, the characters’ life stories are meted out in too-sparse portions, making it difficult to get a cohesive view of the family and to sort out relationships among the various characters. As the book follows the immigrants in North America, the narrative bounces from country to country, which can be hard to follow. However, in the final section and epilogue, Yakimov wraps the saga in a blanket of unifying questions about endurance, family ties and the fine line between heritage and home. While the work focuses on hardships, hope is a recurring theme. Yakimov’s book shines in its details, but spreads itself too thin at times.

 

Pub Date: July 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1462019847

Page Count: 223

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2012

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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