An elucidating study of one of the lesser-known slave rebellions of the 19th century.

ISLAND ON FIRE

THE REVOLT THAT ENDED SLAVERY IN THE BRITISH EMPIRE

An engaging history of the horrific system of slavery practiced in Jamaica and the slave revolt that finally killed it. By the time the educated preacher Samuel Sharpe aroused his fellow slaves and neighbors to rebellion right after Christmas in 1831, there were only a few dozen elite English families in control of the vast sugar wealth of Jamaica, lording it over thousands of slaves. Sugar was the root of this evil, and Zoellner expertly delineates the massive human toll. “Feeding this addiction on a grand scale,” writes the author, “was made possible by the labor of the approximately 860,000 kidnapped Africans transported to Jamaica as slaves between 1600 and 1807.” Zoellner chronicles how young Englishmen jumped at the chance to gain their fortunes in the West Indies, and he ably shows how routinely and swiftly the degradations of slavery corrupted them. In Jamaica, life was short for both slave and master, for different reasons. The white population, vastly outnumbered by slaves, faced the “looming specter of rebellion and death,” which caused them to live unhealthy, hedonistic lives. “As an appalled visitor observed,” writes the author, “the white inhabitants ‘live like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah…they drink, eat, play, and dance, become pale as death and die like flies.’ ” The news of Nat Turner's revolt only months before had fired Sharpe's imagination—and horrified the planters—and he preached to his fellow slaves that their masters were actually keeping their freedom from them, granted in England, where a growing anti-slavery faction was gaining steam. The fuel was ready for ignition, and the fires burned all over the plantations during those first nights of rebellion. Resurrecting this important historical episode, Zoellner moves nimbly through the research, giving an exciting account of the events as well as the significant consequences when the news reached England weeks later. An elucidating study of one of the lesser-known slave rebellions of the 19th century.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 377

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.

THE PRISON LETTERS OF NELSON MANDELA

An epistolary memoir of Nelson Mandela’s prison years.

From August 1962 to February 1990, Mandela (1918-2013) was imprisoned by the apartheid state of South Africa. During his more than 27 years in prison, the bulk of which he served on the notorious Robben Island prison off the shores of Cape Town, he wrote thousands of letters to family and friends, lawyers and fellow African National Congress members, prison officials, and members of the government. Heavily censored for both content and length, letters from Robben Island and South Africa’s other political prisons did not always reach their intended targets; when they did, the censorship could make them virtually unintelligible. To assemble this vitally important collection, Venter (A Free Mind: Ahmed Kathrada's Notebook from Robben Island, 2006, etc.), a longtime Johannesburg-based editor and journalist, pored through these letters in various public and private archives across South Africa and beyond as well as Mandela’s own notebooks, in which he transcribed versions of these letters. The result is a necessary, intimate portrait of the great leader. The man who emerges is warm and intelligent and a savvy, persuasive, and strategic thinker. During his life, Mandela was a loving husband and father, a devotee of the ANC’s struggle, and capable of interacting with prominent statesmen and the ANC’s rank and file. He was not above flattery or hard-nosed steeliness toward his captors as suited his needs, and he was always yearning for freedom, not only—or even primarily—for himself, but rather for his people, a goal that is the constant theme of this collection and was the consuming vision of his entire time as a prisoner. Venter adds tremendous value with his annotations and introductions to the work as a whole and to the book’s various sections.

A valuable contribution to our understanding of one of history’s most vital figures.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63149-117-7

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more