A refreshing alternative to the dismal views of Africa’s prospects that pervade the press.



Despite HIV/AIDS, oppressive governments, genocide and poverty, the winds of hope are blowing across much of Africa, declares one of the most celebrated names in American racial history.

The first black woman to graduate from the University of Georgia, Hunter-Gault (In My Place, 1992) now lives in South Africa and travels around the continent as a correspondent for NPR. She has seen much to cheer her. The three segments of this new work are revisions of three lectures she gave in 2003 at Harvard, where she was a fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research. The author contends that people in the West have been getting only “old” news from Africa about what she calls the Four D’s: death, disease, disaster and despair. No Pollyanna, Hunter-Gault is quick to acknowledge that these conditions remain grave. She discusses the genocide in Darfur, the enormity of the AIDS pandemic, unemployment and poverty, the repression and corruption that still characterize business-as-usual in too many African nations. But she also sees more and more of what she calls “new news”: political and charitable organizations, determined and fearless journalists, hopeful and courageous people, many of whom, despite having little formal training and technological expertise, are devoted to the causes of democracy and human rights on the continent. Much of the author’s optimism is based on opinions formed during her travels and interviews with Africans at every economic and political level. But she is sanguine, as well, because of enlightened political movements and organizations such as the New Partnership for African Development and the Pan-African Parliament. She believes that the West can best help African states by forgiving debts, many of which were incurred when tyrants misappropriated Western loans, and she urges Western media to focus more on African progress and less on the Four D’s.

A refreshing alternative to the dismal views of Africa’s prospects that pervade the press.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-19-517747-9

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2006

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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