A well-written survey, rather less entertaining than T.R. Fehrenbach’s now-standard Lone Star, but meatier, too.




Sweeping history of the outsized state and its bellwether politics.

Texas’s past and present can fairly be characterized as a series of land grabs: the Caddo and Comanches stole it from the Karankawa and other native peoples, the Spanish from the Caddo and Comanches, the Americans from the Spanish. A sovereign nation following the Americano rebellion against Santa Anna before being annexed to the US, Texas has long nursed an independent streak; so vast and remote are portions of the state that news of the Union victory in the Civil War did not reach slaves until well after hostilities had ended, and this geographical distance has furthered ideas of separateness. For all that, writes Campbell (History/Univ. of North Texas), Texas today has “an economy more like that of the United States as a whole than ever in its history,” as well as a diverse society—and an ever-changing one at that, such that Hispanics will regain demographic majority status within the next 20 to 40 years. Texans, Campbell writes, have long been politically conservative, though not a great deal more today than most Americans; the same struggles went on there as in other states on poll taxes, prohibition, and desegregation, fought by the same progressive and right-wing elements. Its leaders have been similarly conservative, from the aristocratic Stephen Austin to the faux-bumpkin Pappy O’Daniel (caricatured—and to judge by Campbell’s account, not too wide of the mark—in the recent film O Brother, Where Art Thou?) and on to George Bush, who as governor did for the state what he has lately been doing as president for the US with tort reform, relaxed regulations on handguns, and the dismantling of various portions of the welfare state, failing “only in his proposals for tax reform, but few Texans regarded that as a pressing issue anyhow.”

A well-written survey, rather less entertaining than T.R. Fehrenbach’s now-standard Lone Star, but meatier, too.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-19-513842-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2003

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Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.


Based on eight years of reporting and thousands of hours of interaction, a journalist chronicles the inner worlds of three women’s erotic desires.

In her dramatic debut about “what longing in America looks like,” Taddeo, who has contributed to Esquire, Elle, and other publications, follows the sex lives of three American women. On the surface, each woman’s story could be a soap opera. There’s Maggie, a teenager engaged in a secret relationship with her high school teacher; Lina, a housewife consumed by a torrid affair with an old flame; and Sloane, a wealthy restaurateur encouraged by her husband to sleep with other people while he watches. Instead of sensationalizing, the author illuminates Maggie’s, Lina’s, and Sloane’s erotic experiences in the context of their human complexities and personal histories, revealing deeper wounds and emotional yearnings. Lina’s infidelity was driven by a decade of her husband’s romantic and sexual refusal despite marriage counseling and Lina's pleading. Sloane’s Fifty Shades of Grey–like lifestyle seems far less exotic when readers learn that she has felt pressured to perform for her husband's pleasure. Taddeo’s coverage is at its most nuanced when she chronicles Maggie’s decision to go to the authorities a few years after her traumatic tryst. Recounting the subsequent trial against Maggie’s abuser, the author honors the triumph of Maggie’s courageous vulnerability as well as the devastating ramifications of her community’s disbelief. Unfortunately, this book on “female desire” conspicuously omits any meaningful discussion of social identities beyond gender and class; only in the epilogue does Taddeo mention race and its impacts on women's experiences with sex and longing. Such oversight brings a palpable white gaze to the narrative. Compounded by the author’s occasionally lackluster prose, the book’s flaws compete with its meaningful contribution to #MeToo–era reporting.

Dramatic, immersive, and wanting—much like desire itself.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4229-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.


Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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