A well-written and valuable take on the diverse narratives that have shaped human history.

THE INVENTION OF YESTERDAY

A 50,000-YEAR HISTORY OF HUMAN CULTURE, CONFLICT, AND CONNECTION

World history as “a story that we’re telling one another.”

In this intriguing account of humankind from the Stone Age to the present, Ansary (Road Trips: Becoming an American in the Vapor Trail of the Sixties, 2019, etc.) writes, “we live on the same planet but in many different worlds.” In 800 C.E., for instance, the Chinese thought their world was the world; other civilizations also believed they lived at the center of their own world model. The author argues that we invent the tribes and other social constellations—the culture—of our own world through narratives based on geographical differences. Viewing the past through this lens, he sees global history as a melding of many master narratives—a “drama of ever-increasing interconnectedness.” Trade, warfare, and other interactions caused separate worlds to overlap. “Neighbors influenced neighbors who influenced neighbors,” writes Ansary. When Rome conquered the Fertile Crescent, diverse belief systems became part of the Roman state. Jews, for example, encountered the secular-pagan ideas of the Greco-Roman world in their daily lives. The Crusades brought hundreds of ideas and innovations into Europe, from gunpowder to mechanical clocks. Pivotal moments triggered interconnections among major cultures, with great ripple effects: Columbus’ discovery of America sparked the rise of corporations and banks in Europe and drew the entire world into “one great global drama.” The advent of machines in the 18th and 19th centuries changed the division of labor between men and women. The invention of the transistor in 1947 heralded the digital age. As an Afghan American, the San Francisco–based author draws nicely on his experiences of life in the different worlds of Islam and the secular West to help readers understand the outcomes of overlapping narratives. He examines the role of interconnections in the development of everything from board games to belief systems, science, and multinational corporations.

A well-written and valuable take on the diverse narratives that have shaped human history.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-796-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 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...

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 Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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