A fine starting point for those interested in the history and future of Iran, but far from definitive.

PERPLEXITY OF IRAN

This brief look at the history of Iran has an eye toward using the region’s diverse past as an argument for regime change.

Political unrest in the Middle East is deeply rooted in the region’s complex past, and its present and future are inexorably tied to events predating even the formation of Islam. This is especially true in Iran, a country that, despite its controversial role in the war on terror, is presented by ChamanAra (A Journey to the Truth, 2005, etc.) as a pluralistic society, both in its origins and as it exists today. However, according to the author, it is because of Iran’s vocal, ruling minority that the country stands at odds with its neighbors, so the dream of peace remains out of reach. The book’s solution is an optimistic though not implausible one, which suggests that regime change in Iran is possible without foreign military intervention. Instead, by utilizing the country’s moderate base (both at home and the millions of expatriate Iranians), religion and government could be separated in the country through the rejection of Sharia law, along with limited diplomatic pressure from the United States. Diplomacy in the region is, of course, not to be frivolously approached, so ChamanAra provides a useful “crash-course” in Iranian history, which looks at the conflicts that shaped the country and illustrates how they affected the Muslim faith, with emphasis on the differences between the Shia and Sunni and a focus on the hard-line offshoot, the Wahhabi. This history is exceedingly useful in understanding the book’s principle arguments; citation is poor, however, with most of the facts culled from Wikipedia, lending some doubt as to their validity. While it’s clear that ChamanAra has an impressive understanding and deep passion for Iran, the passion is outweighed by all the cold, dubious facts. The narrative occasionally slips into a reserved, almost detached tone, punctuated by obtuse metaphors and some intellectual condescension in its portrayal of Third World countries after World War II. In the end, the book’s revolutionary ideas aren’t adequately explored; instead, they’re lost in what amounts to a short history book.

A fine starting point for those interested in the history and future of Iran, but far from definitive.

Pub Date: April 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469168562

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Xlibris

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2012

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

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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