Necessary reading for students of California history and a model for place-based historical studies to come.



Masterful explorations of the Golden State by a leading historian of the American West.

White (American History/Stanford Univ.; The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896, 2017, etc.) teams with his photographer son, Jesse, in a fruitful, highly illuminating collaboration born of a dare to shape a historical text out of an assemblage of images. The result is, the author admits, incomplete: The story of Watts is absent, that of Silicon Valley hinted at, and “the state’s frequently peculiar politics sometimes enter the story, but more often do not.” Nonetheless, White dismantles and builds at the same time, interrogating the well-worn story of Sir Francis Drake’s landing at Point Reyes and complicating the subsequent enshrinement by Episcopalian monument builders with the fact that their hero was a pirate, which “made the celebration of his religious faith incongruous.” The author returns to Point Reyes to recount the working-class immigrants who made a living there, a narrative of Japanese and Italian households that picnicked together but were subjected to different fates when World War II arrived; that narrative is braced by historical photographs and Jesse’s sweeping landscapes. White’s principal interest lies precisely with those working people who made California, among them the Native peoples who labored in the irrigated orchards and vegetable beds outside the main mission compound at San Fernando: “Gardens were for contemplation and relaxation; in the huertas, people worked.” At Point Reyes again, he examines the lives of the men, women, and children at the “alphabet ranches” (named D Ranch, F Ranch, and so on) who worked as tenants in places where the ranchers hoped “that good years would outnumber bad.” Sometimes they were right, a fact that has kept people coming to California in endless numbers for generations. White gives them voice, writing thoughtfully of the many cultures and ethnicities that have contributed to building the state.

Necessary reading for students of California history and a model for place-based historical studies to come.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-393-24306-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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