As good a state history as has ever been written and a must-read for Texas aficionados.




Austin-based novelist Harrigan (A Friend of Mr. Lincoln, 2016, etc.) serves up a lively history of the nation-sized Lone Star State.

The title comes from the painter Georgia O’Keeffe, who marveled at Texas but wound up making her fortune in next-door New Mexico. Of course, Texas has many next-door neighbors, each influencing it and being influenced by it: the plains of Oklahoma, the bayous and deep forests of Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, Mexico itself, all where South and West and Midwest meet. Telling its story is a daunting task: If the project of the gigantic centennial Big Tex statue with which Harrigan opens his story was to “Texanize Texans,” it was one in which women, ethnic minorities, the poor, and many other sorts of people were forgotten in the face of stalwarts like Sam Houston, Judge Roy Bean, and Davy Crockett. Not here. The standbys figure, but in interesting lights: Houston was famous and even infamous in his day, but his successor, Mirabeau Lamar, mostly known only for the Austin avenue named for him, was just as much a man of parts, “a poet and classical scholar with a bucolic vision of the empire that his administration aimed to wrest from the hands of its enemies.” Harrigan’s story of the Alamo is also nuanced: It is not true that there were no survivors, but the fact that the survivors were slaves has rendered them invisible—as is the fact that many Mexican officers who served under Santa Anna pleaded with him to show mercy to the rest. The Alamo has given a Texas flair to all sorts of things, including a recent golf tournament, highlighting Texans’ tendency toward "a blend of valor and swagger.” Just so, Harrigan, surveying thousands of years of history that lead to the banh mi restaurants of Houston and the juke joints of Austin, remembering the forgotten as well as the famous, delivers an exhilarating blend of the base and the ignoble, a very human story indeed.

As good a state history as has ever been written and a must-read for Texas aficionados.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-292-75951-0

Page Count: 944

Publisher: Univ. of Texas

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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