A satisfying recounting of some of the earliest American history.

A KINGDOM STRANGE

THE BRIEF AND TRAGIC HISTORY OF THE LOST COLONY OF ROANOKE

The story of the mysterious disappearance of the colonists who attempted to set up the first permanent British colony in the Americas.

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation vice president Horn (A Land As God Made It: Jamestown and the Birth of America, 2005, etc.) uses new archival material to piece together the history of more than 100 British colonists who landed on Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina in 1587. The venture, sponsored by Sir Walter Ralegh, encountered trouble from the start. The colonists found the new land entirely inhospitable; they contended with fast-dwindling supplies as well as aggressive Native Americans, who brutally killed one colonist days after their arrival. Just one month after their initial landing, the settlers’ leader, John White, sailed back to England to obtain a relief force and to replenish supplies. When he finally returned in 1590 after many delays, the colony had disappeared, seemingly deserted. What happened to the colonists has been a mystery for centuries, with a number of different ideas advanced by historians over the years. Horn constructs a detailed theory of what he believes happened to many of the colonists—that they lived on elsewhere for years afterward, only to meet a tragic end. The author creates an engaging, you-are-there feel to the narrative, with rich descriptions of European politics, colonists’ daily struggles and the vagaries of relations between Native American tribes. Horn also provides helpful drawings and maps—many by John White—throughout this relatively brief but comprehensive book.

A satisfying recounting of some of the earliest American history.

Pub Date: April 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-465-00485-0

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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

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