A skillful synthesis of historical research and contested narrative, resonant with enduring loss.

Sprawling account of the grim conclusion of the Indian Wars.

Historian Powers (Intelligence Wars: American Secret History from Hitler to Al-Qaeda, 2002, etc.) notes that by adolescence, he’d learned that “the treatment of Indians was something people did not like to describe plainly.” Central to this narrative of concealment are two notorious events: the 1876 massacre of Gen. Custer’s command at the Little Bighorn, engineered by the fearsome Sioux warrior Crazy Horse, and Crazy Horse’s slaying a year later at a Nebraska military barracks where he’d surrendered himself voluntarily. With a scholar-obsessive’s attention to detail, the author reconstructs the entire milieu of the northern Plains in the 1870s, when the Sioux and other tribes were finding that the whites had no intention of honoring earlier treaties, particularly after the discovery of gold in the Black Hills (in present-day South Dakota). Powers takes an evenhanded approach to discerning how attempts at coexistence floundered. The soldiers and bureaucrats charged with managing Indian affairs were blinkered by the racist attitudes of the day—yet were often fascinated by Indian society and magnetic individuals like Crazy Horse—while the rigidity and confused negotiating style of chiefs like Sitting Bull made violent conflict inevitable. Gen. George Crook, the Civil War hero tasked with pacifying the northern tribes, respected Indians as fighters and wilderness experts, yet took their intransigence personally, especially following his unit’s defeat in a battle prior to Custer’s massacre and his miscalculation in pursuing Crazy Horse’s band without adequate supplies (his embittered men resorted to eating their horses). Following the Little Bighorn, even Crazy Horse realized that annihilation or acceptance of life on an agency, or reservation, were their only choices, and he surrendered his band to the Army in May 1877. Yet Powers assembles evidence that by September, Crook and rival Sioux chiefs were plotting his demise, for reasons which remain muddy to this day. The narrative is dense but always lucid, controlled and compulsively readable, raising thorny questions about the myth of Manifest Destiny.

A skillful synthesis of historical research and contested narrative, resonant with enduring loss.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-41446-6

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010


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


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

Close Quickview