Serrano’s an adequate writer, and the story could have been a decent long-form magazine article. As a book, however, there...

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LAST OF THE BLUE AND GRAY

OLD MEN, STOLEN GLORY, AND THE MYSTERY THAT OUTLIVED THE CIVIL WAR

A Civil War story only for those who can’t get enough of the War Between the States.

Serrano (One of Ours: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing, 1998) proposes to tell the stories of two men, one of whom probably never served as a soldier. “One of them was a soldier, but one,” writes the author, “according to the best evidence, was a fake. One of them had been living a great big lie.” The run-up to the centennial in 1961 brought attention to those who still survived. Albert Woolson (1847–1956) was a drummer boy with the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery, and Walter Williams foraged for “cattle, fresh crops, and anything else to eat” for John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade. Woolson was quick with tales of his war experiences, and, as often happens with old men, his stories tended to change. He was active in the Grand Army of the Republic’s reunions, or encampments, which continued intermittently until 1949 (the organization was disbanded upon Woolson’s death in 1956). Williams, on the other hand, never talked much about his short enlistment. He was more cowboy than Confederate and preferred talking about his days herding cattle on the Chisholm Trail. These two men were the last veterans of their respective sides, but there’s not a lot to tell. The author goes into detail about their last years and all that goes with aging: fighting for pensions, deafness, blindness, toothlessness, general deterioration and the process of dying. As the narrative progresses, Serrano sprinkles in stories of the other last few living soldiers of the Civil War, a tactic that merely bulks up the page count.

Serrano’s an adequate writer, and the story could have been a decent long-form magazine article. As a book, however, there is just too much mystery-free filler.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58834-395-6

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2013

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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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