A much-needed exploration of the complex racial history of early Texas that won’t please the remember-the-Alamo crowd.

UNSETTLED LAND

FROM REVOLUTION TO REPUBLIC, THE STRUGGLE FOR TEXAS

A study of Texas history that shows how the era of revolution was a contest of many sides.

Wresting Texas away from Mexico wasn’t just the work of Davy Crockett and Sam Houston. Haynes, director of the Center for Greater Southwestern Studies at the University of Texas at Arlington, opens with a party of German freethinkers recruited by an Englishman in New York with the promise of free land—but not forewarned that the Comanches had designs on that land themselves. Then came a wave of eastern woodland Native peoples who had been driven out of their homelands by White settlement, guided by a canny leader who, though refused permission to colonize, did so anyway. They faced down Comanches along with many other neighbors. “The Indian refugees who came to Texas from the United States,” writes Haynes, “would find an even more diverse collection of Native peoples already living there.” Then came Anglo fortune-seekers and settlers, such as a Mississippi speculator who, “following in the footsteps of Stephen F. Austin, had been working for more than a year to establish his colony in the Piney Woods.” That colony put him up against Native peoples, the Hispanos of the town of Nacogdoches, and a nest of ruffians who had fled from Louisiana when the U.S. Army established an outpost there. All these parties came into conflict during the revolutionary era, and in the end, as Haynes documents, it was the pro-slavery Whites who initiated their revolution after learning that Mexico was abolishing slavery who emerged victorious. The effects of newly established White supremacy were many, including the removal of many Tejanos, Hispanic Texans who had joined in that revolution, from positions of authority or power. One was the guerrilla fighter Juan Seguín, driven from the mayorship of San Antonio in 1842. As Haynes notes, sharply, “Anglos dominated the city council; 140 years would pass before the town elected a Mexican-American mayor again.”

A much-needed exploration of the complex racial history of early Texas that won’t please the remember-the-Alamo crowd.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5416-4541-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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