For fans of The Burma Road, Into Thin Air, and other tales in the man-vs.-the-elements vein.



A well-rendered story of WWII action and adventure, one with plenty of twists and operational pointers for future warriors: “Don’t cross mountain ranges. Always go down in valleys.”

The author of that tip, one of the survivors of a fallen C-87 transport plane, knew whereof he wrote. In December 1943, those GIs were flying over the “Hump,” or Himalayas, on their way home from delivering supplies to China. Blown off course by a storm and forced to ditch when their plane ran out of fuel, the men picked their way across the mountains and eventually found a Tibetan village, where they had an education in store: “If the five Americans had thought about Tibet at all,” write journalists Starks and Murcutt, “they had done so in terms if caricatures. The average American saw Tibet . . . as a kind of mythical Shangri-la, a country that existed more in the mind than in reality. It was a place they might enjoy reading about, but not one they would actually want to visit.” They were right on the last point, for the crewmen found themselves caught up in a Great Game struggle among Tibet, then still free and determined to stay that way, an expansionist China, and an always-in-the-shadows Britain. They were also in danger of being stoned for having broken a taboo, for “no Tibetan, and certainly no foreigner, was ever allowed to look down on a Dalai Lama” as from a passing plane—never mind, as the pilot observed, that any Tibetan who ventured into the hills surrounding Lhasa would stand taller than the nation’s ruler. Indeed, the US government later ventured in a face-saving effort, Tibetan forces attacked the GIs as they flew overhead—a lie, though one that helped explain away why, despite the Tibetan government’s efforts, the Roosevelt administration would never acknowledge that nation’s independence, mindful of offending China.

For fans of The Burma Road, Into Thin Air, and other tales in the man-vs.-the-elements vein.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 1-59228-572-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Lyons Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2004

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.



In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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



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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