An interesting take on Roman history focused on the peoples that resisted its growth and eventually brought about its...

THE ENEMIES OF ROME

THE BARBARIAN REBELLION AGAINST THE ROMAN EMPIRE

A history of Rome built around the empire’s battles against internal and external enemies.

Kershaw (Classics/Oxford Univ.; The Search for Atlantis: A History of Plato’s Ideal State, 2018, etc.) begins with the “founding of the city” in 753 B.C.E. and traces his theme through the fall of Rome in 476 C.E. Each chapter covers one of Rome’s major adversaries. The list of characters includes many of the best-known names in ancient history—Hannibal, Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Attila the Hun—along with others many readers will probably encounter for the first time. The author provides solid minibiographies of most of them, sometimes making a point of debunking popular wisdom—e.g., Hannibal and Cleopatra were not black. Kershaw also gives us a good look at a number of prominent Romans (Pompey, Julius Caesar, Constantine) and at the early history of other parts of the world, notably the Middle East. A recurring theme is the question of what the ancients meant by “barbarian,” a definition that shifted as Rome absorbed Greek culture and then as the empire expanded to take in much of Western Europe, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. The Romans tended to draw highly stereotyped portraits of barbarian characters; their descriptions of the Goths and Huns make their enemies seem little better than animals. An exception was when one of them defeated a Roman general deemed to lack the proper Roman virtues; in this case, the “barbarian” is portrayed as an example of what his adversary should have been. Kershaw draws liberally on the original sources, including Plutarch, Livy, Tacitus, and other historians, with occasional references to modern research. Given the enormous swath of history the book covers, it almost inevitably lacks a certain cohesiveness as the narrative moves from one threatened frontier to another, often skipping several generations. Readers will find themselves referring frequently to the maps. Though this isn’t the first Roman history one should read, it adds a fascinating dimension for anyone with a broad knowledge of the subject.

An interesting take on Roman history focused on the peoples that resisted its growth and eventually brought about its destruction.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64313-310-2

Page Count: 508

Publisher: Pegasus

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

THE UNDOCUMENTED AMERICANS

The debut book from “one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard.”

In addition to delivering memorable portraits of undocumented immigrants residing precariously on Staten Island and in Miami, Cleveland, Flint, and New Haven, Cornejo Villavicencio, now enrolled in the American Studies doctorate program at Yale, shares her own Ecuadorian family story (she came to the U.S. at age 5) and her anger at the exploitation of hardworking immigrants in the U.S. Because the author fully comprehends the perils of undocumented immigrants speaking to journalist, she wisely built trust slowly with her subjects. Her own undocumented status helped the cause, as did her Spanish fluency. Still, she protects those who talked to her by changing their names and other personal information. Consequently, readers must trust implicitly that the author doesn’t invent or embellish. But as she notes, “this book is not a traditional nonfiction book….I took notes by hand during interviews and after the book was finished, I destroyed those notes.” Recounting her travels to the sites where undocumented women, men, and children struggle to live above the poverty line, she reports her findings in compelling, often heart-wrenching vignettes. Cornejo Villavicencio clearly shows how employers often cheat day laborers out of hard-earned wages, and policymakers and law enforcement agents exist primarily to harm rather than assist immigrants who look and speak differently. Often, cruelty arrives not only in economic terms, but also via verbal slurs and even violence. Throughout the narrative, the author explores her own psychological struggles, including her relationships with her parents, who are considered “illegal” in the nation where they have worked hard and tried to become model residents. In some of the most deeply revealing passages, Cornejo Villavicencio chronicles her struggles reconciling her desire to help undocumented children with the knowledge that she does not want "kids of my own." Ultimately, the author’s candor about herself removes worries about the credibility of her stories.

A welcome addition to the literature on immigration told by an author who understands the issue like few others.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-399-59268-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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