Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nat Turner

Nat Turner: Prophet and Slave Revolt Leader
by Terry Bisson
The Black American Series

A fiery preacher and militant leader, Nat Turner organized a slave uprising that struck a defiant blow against slavery in the United States 30 years before the start of the Civil War.

A well-written, sympathetic biography of the leader of our nations' bloodiest slave revolt60 whites were killed by the insurgents in 1831, and 200 blacks lost their lives in the ensuing terror. Bisson creates an excellent background to Turner's life, describing not only the daily life of a slave, but also how it felt to have no control over one's destiny. The violence of Turner's revolt is toned down a bit for the younger audience, without losing the chaotic emotions behind it. In addition to the loss of life, Bisson points out that the revolution shattered the notions "that the slaves would not, or could not, fight for their freedom,'' and that "blacks were happy as slaves and would submit forever to be beasts of burden.''

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Italians

The Italians
by Luigi Barzini

In this consummate portrait of the Italian people, bestselling author, publisher, journalist, and politician Luigi Barzini delves deeply into the Italian national character, discovering both its great qualities and its imperfections. Barzini is startlingly frank as he examines "the two Italies": the one that created and nurtured such luminaries as Dante Alighieri, St. Thomas of Aquino, and Leonardo da Vinci; the other, feeble and prone to catastrophe, backward in political action if not in thought, "invaded, ravaged, sacked, and humiliated in every century." Deeply ambivalent, Barzini approaches his task with a combination of love, hate, disillusion, and affectionate paternalism, resulting in a completely original, thoughtful, and probing picture of his countrymen.