Richly researched and illustrated—a wholly edifying account.



Steinberg (History and Law/Case Western Reserve Univ.; American Green: The Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Lawn, 2006, etc.) returns with an illuminating text that adheres strictly and powerfully to its subtitle.

The author performs a grand public service in this work examining the history of “one of the most drastically transformed natural environments in the world.” He begins with what Henry Hudson would have seen in 1609 (virtually nothing remains the same), then marches resolutely forward for more than 400 years, describing everything from the “purchase” of the island from the Native Americans to changes wrought under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. A number of themes and subjects re-emerge: the visit George Washington made in the spring of 1789, the decision to arrange the streets in the form of a strict grid, the determination to reclaim land from the rivers and the sea, the destruction of the vast marshes (time-lapse charts show their shocking disappearance), changes in the wildlife brought about by human intervention (Manhattan used to be known for its wolves), the decisions about garbage and sewage that have had long-term consequences, and the threats now facing the area due to climate change and powerful storms (Hurricane Sandy finally prompted dilatory politicians to action). Steinberg also examines the political forces at work throughout the island’s last few centuries—forces not always at work in the public interest. The text overflows with arresting details. The once-booming sale of human manure, the construction of the Croton Aqueduct, the projects of Robert Moses, the effects of the 1939 World’s Fair, and construction of the Pulaski Skyway, the Meadowlands and Battery City Park—all appear in the view of the author’s ecological lens. He also gives us glimpses of the dangers confronting Gothamites—among them, extreme heat events and the rising ocean levels.

Richly researched and illustrated—a wholly edifying account.

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4124-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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


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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