Focusing on the importance of the Santa Fe Trail in the Mexican War, attorney and Western historian Chalfant (Cheyennes and Horse Soldiers, 1989, etc.) vividly and eloquently explains how the war and the incursions of rapacious Americans along the trail violently ended the local Native Americans' traditional way of life. Chalfant tells two stories. The first is the frequently ignoble, often harrowing, sometimes heroic tale of the conquest by the Army of the West under General Stephen W. Kearny of the territory of New Mexico in 1846-48. Chalfant's second, and more gripping, narrative tells of the strife between whites and bands of Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, Comanches, and Apaches that became increasingly bloody as commercial traffic along the Santa Fe Trail expanded and the embattled natives became more desperate. Chalfant devotes several engrossing chapters to the travails of the Indian Battalion, a ragtag troop of undisciplined volunteers organized for the sole purpose of protecting travelers along the trail from Indian attacks. After suffering repeated indignities, this band had its day of glory at the Battle of Coon Creek on June 17, 1848; in the first Indian battle fought with rapid-firing, breech-loaded carbines, a small group of recruits defeated a larger force of Comanches accustomed to fighting whites armed with slow muzzle- loaders. Although warrior bands remained active after Coon Creek, and the Indian Battalion was disbanded later in 1848, the battle marked the beginning of the end for the Indians: Chalfant's tale ends with the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill that same year and the beginning of the vast migration to California. Absorbing and well researched, Chalfant's study is a signal contribution to Western and Mexican War literature.

Pub Date: April 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-8061-2613-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1994

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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