An unsettling report on the decline of agriculture in the dry margins of the American West. The men and women who populate environmental consultant and journalist Bingham's book dwell in the high desert of southern Colorado. It's not good land: The soil is coarse, sandy, hostile to cultivation. Heavily ranched since the 1840s, it is now all but denuded of native vegetation. Bingham writes, ``Artesian wells that once shot 20 feet in the air now required pumping. Chico brush grew where old-timers once grew hay, and here and there bare alkali ground outcropped as hard as cement.'' Industrialized agriculture has made a stand against the ever-encroaching desert: A massive concentration of center-pivot sprinklers—irrigating thousands of quarter-mile circles of potatoes, carrots, lettuce, alfalfa, and malting barley—pump enough water from ever-dwindling sources to bring profit for yet another season. Overgrazing and exotic agriculture have ruined the land, marginal to begin with, and Bingham comments that the condition of the San Luis Valley is now scarcely different from that of drought-stricken Africa. The African drylands, now a theater of famine, make news where ours do not because, he posits, American media coverage of purely agricultural issues is so poor and because other sources of income- -the occasional oil royalties, light industry, various kinds of federal welfare, and always the beckoning cities just over the horizon—keep the people of San Luis from starving. Knowing that theirs is very likely a lost cause, the people of the San Luis Valley, whom Bingham treats with courtesy and generosity, keep struggling to produce food in a hostile environment, attaining a kind of nobility as they do. Bingham's is a rare and beautifully written account of hard lives in hard times, and must reading for those interested in the future of the American West. (Author tour)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42283-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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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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