An edifying and diverse survey of 20th-century Jewish life.



An extensive look at Jewish civilization and culture from the eve of World War II to the Yom Kippur War.

The ninth installment in this series covers the years between 1939 and 1973, from the Holocaust to the many facets of Diaspora, the founding of the state of Israel, and Jewish life in the United States. The material—edited by Kassow, a professor of history at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and Roskies, a professor of Jewish literature at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City—is generally organized with a short biographical sketch of each source followed by their written work or images. It contains works by such well-known authors as Anne Frank, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Bob Dylan, whose lyrics to the 1965 song “Like a Rolling Stone” are reproduced in full: “Most readers might not regard Bob Dylan’s ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ as a ‘Jewish song,’ but its new voice, provocative and confrontational, evoked the defiance and disorientation that an entire generation was feeling,” note the editors. Less-famous writers also weigh in, such as those who wrote letters from the Westerbork transit camp during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Portions on visual culture include the architecture of Odessa-born Morris Lapidus and a photo by American Jewish photographer Rebecca Lepkoff, who documented New York City’s changing Lower East Side. At more than 1,000 pages, the work is certainly not a light read. Some material proves quite dense, such as extracts from Jacob Neusner’s There We Sat Down: Talmudic Judaism in the Making(1971), or may only appeal to a narrow audience, as with a discussion of Israeli sculpture. Still, it tackles an immense amount of information in often intriguing ways, as when novelist and screenwriter William Goldman writes of the conflict between Jews and Gentiles during his youth in prewar London with noteworthy grace, and the cover of the first issue of Captain America from 1941 reminds readers exactly how the hero, and his creators, felt about Adolf Hitler. It’s a weighty collection, to be sure, but one that’s consistently engaging.

An edifying and diverse survey of 20th-century Jewish life.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-18853-0

Page Count: 1088

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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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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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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