A splendid rendering of the messy human story of our fourth-most populous state.

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    Best Books Of 2013

FINDING FLORIDA

A rich and lively history of Florida, minus the Disney gloss.

“To find the real Florida you…must tear up the picture postcards! Get rid of the plumed conquistadors and Confederate cavaliers!” writes veteran journalist and native Floridian Allman (Rogue State: America at War with the World, 2004, etc.). In this colorful, sometimes angry account, he shatters five centuries of mythmaking to tell the real story of a soggy, inhospitable place with few resources, whose most memorable events are often fabrications and whose real history has been hidden by boosters and historians. Ponce de León did not discover Florida. Nor was he searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth, popularized by Washington Irving. But the courtier Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, since airbrushed out of history, did secure Florida for Spain in 1565, slaughtering Frenchmen near St. Augustine. In 1816, on Gen. Andrew Jackson’s orders, Americans committed “one of the worst massacres in American history,” killing hundreds of civilians in the Indian, black, and mixed-race community known as Negro Fort, now the Fort Gadsden Historic Recreation Center. A turning point in the U.S. acquisition of Florida, the massacre was followed by years of inhumane policies toward Indians and blacks. The author lambasts the work of historians who have whitewashed Florida’s unseemly moments in the apparent belief that people do not like to be reminded of unpleasant things. Much of his gripping narrative focuses on key figures like Seminole resistance leader Osceola, who later became a celebrity Indian chief; industrialist Henry Flagler, one of the indefatigable promoters who made waterlogged land seem like real estate; and go-getter Walter P. Fraser, who turned St. Augustine into a travel destination and precursor of Florida theme parks.

A splendid rendering of the messy human story of our fourth-most populous state.

Pub Date: March 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-0802120762

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Atlantic Monthly

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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