An accurate narrative, but the lack of nuance makes for a painful account that will keep readers gnashing their teeth...




Intense history of a vicious confrontation between whites and Indians in 1850s Washington Territory.

Pulitzer Prize–winning historian and journalist Kluger (Seizing Destiny: The Relentless Expansion of American Territory, 2007, etc.) writes accessible prose and turns up fascinating obscure records, but readers will quickly suspect that this story doesn’t end well. A central figure, Isaac Stevens (1818–1862), became the first governor of the Washington Territory in 1853. His major task was to facilitate white settlement by removing indigenous tribes. To achieve this, he sent representatives to survey their lands and, with no tribal input, choose a reservation. After drawing up a written contract, they called tribes together to feast and listen to whites extol its benefits, including promises of schools and farm equipment. Kluger points out that the Indians were illiterate, did not understand contracts and had no concept of land ownership. Despite their unease, most—according to white observers—signed. One leader, Leschi (1808–1858), protested and organized resistance during the 1855-6 Puget Sound War but was defeated, captured and, despite appeals from some whites, hung (though obviously useless to him, Leschi was exonerated in 2004). Forced onto tiny reservations, the tribes sunk into poverty, and their number dwindled. By the end of the 20th century, most whites agreed that they had treated the tribes badly, and legalization of Indian casinos has stimulated some prosperity for the survivors. Kluger does not conceal his indignation, painting a portrait of the whites as greedy, materialistic and racist, with a few ineffectual exceptions. The tribes are portrayed as modest hunter-gatherers, devoutly in tune with nature.

An accurate narrative, but the lack of nuance makes for a painful account that will keep readers gnashing their teeth throughout.

Pub Date: March 3, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-26889-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2010

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet