Students of early American history will be the most attentive audience for the book, but any reader who picks it up will get...

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THE FIRST FRONTIER

THE FORGOTTEN HISTORY OF STRUGGLE, SAVAGERY, AND ENDURANCE IN EARLY AMERICA

Creating a new civilization is a bloody, destructive and morally withering business; for proof, one need look no further than frontier American life.

In this comprehensive chronicle, Pulitzer Prize winner Weidensaul  (Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding, 2007, etc.) sheds light on the shadowy world of pre-Revolutionary America, when the unconscionable chicanery of white explorers and settlers was met with horrific vengeance by the established Indian tribes. As straight history, it can be dry stuff, as the author’s arsenal of facts tends to slow him down. Nonetheless, Weidensaul weaves together an impressive number of true stories, bolstered by first and secondhand records and journals. Captain John Smith has a grimly funny account of a starving man who killed, seasoned and devoured his own wife: “Now whether shee was better roasted, boyled or carbonado’d, I know not, but of such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of.” There’s also the story of Richard Waldron, who had a special talent for cheating Indians but got a dread comeuppance when his victims slowly dismembered him, starting by slashing knives across his chest and saying, “I cross out my account.” Another figure of lasting interest is Hannah Duston, who became a frontier hero (and a source of lasting controversy) when she killed 10 Indians (including children) in their sleep, as retribution for the murder of her infant daughter.

Students of early American history will be the most attentive audience for the book, but any reader who picks it up will get a very real picture of what it was like to live and die in the New World.

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-151-01515-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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