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THE BROKEN HEART OF AMERICA

ST. LOUIS AND THE VIOLENT HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A well-rendered, incisive exploration of “a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence.”

A Harvard professor of history and African American studies posits that studying the history of St. Louis can help explain more than 200 years of racism and exploitation in the U.S.

“This book,” writes Johnson, a Missouri native, “traces the history of empire and racial capitalism through a series of stages, beginning with the fur trade in the early nineteenth century and following all the way down to payday lending, tax abatement, for-profit policing, and mass incarceration in our own times.” In a narrative of unrelenting, justified outrage grounded in impressive scholarship, Johnson proceeds mostly chronologically. He begins in early-19th-century St. Louis, a city that served as a base for a violent white-dominated government and military, which murdered Native Americans in massive numbers, with impunity, while driving them away from their long-established homelands. After the eradication of Native communities, they turned their violent intentions toward black communities. Many of those black residents had lived in metropolitan St. Louis for generations; tens of thousands more had arrived from the Deep South hoping to escape the aftermath of slavery. Instead, they encountered a slavery of sorts based on low-wage employment; segregated, substandard housing, transportation, and schooling; and frequent emotional and physical violence. Johnson explains the nature of structural racism, including how it flows naturally from rampant capitalism. Although occasional passages qualify as theoretical—and may only appeal to fellow historians—every chapter includes searing, unforgettable examples. White men often portrayed as heroes are shown by Johnson to be bigots, including Lewis and Clark and Thomas Hart Benton, but the author also exposes plenty of unsavory characters who will be unknown to readers without a familiarity with St. Louis history. Johnson offers plenty of evidence from the current century, as well, including the police murder of Michael Brown in the suburb of Ferguson. The epilogue offers hope, however minimal, that residents can imagine “new ways to live in the city, to connect with and care for one another, to be human.”

A well-rendered, incisive exploration of “a history of serial dispossession and imperial violence.”

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-465-06426-7

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Basic Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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