Lincoln's Bishop -- A President, A Priest, and the Fate of 300 Dakota Sioux Warriors by Gustav Niebuhr, HarperOne '14, $26.99, 210 pages, ASIN #0062097687. Index, bibliography, further reading, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Memoirs of the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, abundant though they are, seem to be written in a secular as opposed to religious tone. But in his new book, author Gustav Niebuhr recalls the Civil War days of 1862 "when Dakota Sioux rose up against pioneering families and slaughtered hundreds." The turmoil of those days surrounded the state's first Episcopal bishop, Henry Benjamin Whipple.
In a brief Q&A, Gustav Niebuhr discusses the writing of his new book:
Q. What drew you to want to write about Henry B. Whipple?
A. Whipple lived a life both personally adventurous and morally courageous. He pulled up stakes twice, leaving a comfortable position in Upstate New York and then an exciting, potentially prestigious one in Chicago to settle among pioneers on the Minnesota frontier. There, he discovered his calling in demanding justice for Native Americans -- not exactly a popular cause.
Q. Why did Whipple think he could appeal directly to President LIncoln amidst the Dakota War?
A. The bishop had remarkable self-confidence and also felt a real ease in dealing with all levels of society. His various congregations had included both the morally suspect (actors and the financially substantial rich businessmen). As a thoroughly committed Protestant, he also fully believed God called him to do justice. He saw himself taking God's side.
Author Gustav Niebuhr is associate professor of newspaper and online journalism at Syracuse University. He has worked as a reporter at the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal. He has written one previous book.
A Most Imperfect Union -- A Contrarian History of the United States by Ilan Stavans, Illustrated by Lalo Alcaraz, BasicBooks '14 in oversized format on glossy stock, $26.99, Index, scores of b&w images sprinkled through text.
As a grandpa and a history buff, I browsed a bookstore recently for a birthday book but found it difficult to locate a history book that would appeal to my 15-year-old grandson, since he wasn't old enough to enjoy David McCullough. "What kind of a graphic are you looking for?, the clerk asked. I knew I was way over my head when he guffawed at my next question: "First of all, what's a graphic?"
Now I know, although it looks more like Dick Tracy than I would have imagined. The one I picked is subtitled, "A Contrarian History of the United States" and has not only a comic book-style format but a message that the author calls "an alternative history of America."
"The true story of the United States lies not with the founding fathers or robber barons," writes Stavans, "but with the country's most overlooked and marginalized peoples: the workers, immigrants, housewives, and slaves who built America from the ground up and made this country what it is today."
The author divides his text into seven sections, with such headings as "The Founding Fathers Have A Baby!" and "Slaves R Us." Check out the text accompanying sketches of Columbus landing in the Mayflower:
"Persecution -- That's our origin myth! The settlers were searching for a place where their culture wouldn't be under attack. They wanted to start over, to create a free nation. Yet the place where they chose to establish that nation already had its own culture, which the settlers conveniently ignored. That's the only way to start anew after all -- by negating the past."
About the authors: Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin America and Latino Culture at Amherst College. Lalo Alcaraz is an editorial cartoonist and illustrator and faculty member at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles.
Contested Frontiers in the Syria-Lebanon-Israel Region -- Cartography, Sovereignty, and Conflict by Asher Kaufman, Wilson Center/Johns Hopkins UP '14, 281 pages, ASIN #1421411679. Index, selected bibliography, notes, b&w images sprinkled through text...
From the back cover:
"Contested Frontiers in the Syria-Lebanon-Israel Region considers one of the flash points of the Middle East -- a region of roughly 100 square kilometers, where Syria, Lebanon, and Israel come together but where the borders have never been clearly marked. It was the scene of Palestinian guerrilla warfare in the 1960s and 1970s, and of ongoing Hezbollah confrontations with Israel since 2000.
"At stake are rural villages who live in one country but identify as belonging to another, sources of the Jordan River and part of the historically significant Mount Hermon, and other geographic and man-made points of contention.
"Asher Kaufman uses French, British, American, and Israeli archives: Lebanese and Syrian primary sources; interviews with borderland residents and with UN and U.S. officials; and a historic collection of maps. He analyzes the geopolitical causes of conflict and prospects for resolution, assesses the impasse over economic zones in the eastern Mediterranean where Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, and Turkey all have claims, and reflects on the meaning of borders and frontiers today."
Author Asher Kaufman is an associate professor of history and peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.