Although sorely in need of maps and other illustrations, this is an impressive, engaging analysis of one of the most...




A swift and savvy journey through 164 years of Alamo history—from lines in the sand to lines at the gift shop.

Roberts (History/Purdue) and Olson (History/Sam Houston State Univ.) present a balanced analysis of one of the obsessions of the subject of their previous work (John Wayne: American, 1995). The first half deals with the brief battle itself (it was over in about 90 minutes)—its causes, its participants, and its immediate aftermath. The second examines “how Americans gave and continue to give meaning to the event.” The authors provide fair and careful portraits of the principal players in the bloody drama: they characterize the Mexican general Santa Anna was “Byronic,” a man who “lusted for absolute power” and considered himself “Napoleon’s latter-day reincarnation.” William Barret Travis, the Alamo’s commander, read novels by Sir Walter Scott and, like many others at the time, employed “the rhetoric of the American Revolution.” Jim Bowie convinced Sam Houston the makeshift fortress could be defended—then died in his Alamo bed where he lay suffering from some devastating illness (perhaps typhoid). The most compelling and controversial figure, however, remains Davy Crockett, whose portrayals by Fess Parker and John Wayne have become part of the collective American imagination. Roberts and Olson consider the documentary evidence of Crockett’s life and death and conclude “there is no definitive account of Crockett’s final hours.” There are compelling chapters on the restoration of the structure, on Disney’s Davy Crockett phenomenon (which “must have made a dent in the raccoon population”), on Wayne’s meticulous but sluggish 1960 film (the set was cleared of rattlesnakes each morning), on the various academic interpretations of the Alamo, and on the structure’s continuing role as a lightning rod for political activists of all stripes.

Although sorely in need of maps and other illustrations, this is an impressive, engaging analysis of one of the most politically charged events in American history.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-83544-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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


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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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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