A collection of 35 essays by members of the Society of American Historians that help to restore the heroic figure’s just proportions for the benefit of our too-cynical age. Ware (History/Radcliffe Coll., Still Missing: Amelia Earhart and the Search for Modern Feminism, 1993) defines a hero as anyone who leads by courageous example. For instance, we read in Tom Wicker’s contribution, —Henry Knox’s Wilderness Epic,— about the incredible 1775—76 journey of Knox, who dragged tons of captured British artillery overland and across rivers, exhorted his worn men from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, and eventually caused the British army to evacuate the city. Also chronicled are the doings of religious martyrs and former slaves, suffragists, publishers, and other reformers. Of equal note are the seemingly much less zingy backroom labors of librarian J.C.M. Hanson, who standardized cataloguing practices at the Library of Congress and the University of Chicago library. Observes his present-day champion, contributing essayist Neil Harris, who teaches history at Chicago, —Librarians of the day regarded issues like the proper entry of a British nobleman’s name or the capitalization of common nouns in German —as something on which their consciences would permit no compromise.— But Hanson was able to encourage harmony.— Also unexpected is Stephen Jay Gould’s account of the extraordinary Ohio-born deaf baseball player William Ellsworth —Dummy— Hoy (1862—961): though no more than five feet five inches tall, Hoy was a great center-fielder who slipped into the game by chance after a brief career as a cobbler. One of Hoy’s more minor yet still ingenious accomplishments: the invention of a —unique doorbell arrangement— involving a knob, pulled by the caller, that —released a lead ball which rolled down a wooden chute and then fell off onto the floor with a thud. When it hit the floor [inside, Hoy and his wife] felt vibrations through their feet, and they knew somebody was at the door.— Unlikely heroes may be the best kind.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-84375-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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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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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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