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Celebrating the Life

Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America

[Longhorn Review] Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, latin america — Posted on July 15, 2008, 3:29 pm

By: John Charles Chasteen

If you are interested in a compelling and easy-to-read overview of the history of
Latin America, this is the book for you. Instead of trying to relate the events that
took place throughout Latin America over five centuries, Chasteen looks at larger
themes and movements shared by countries throughout Latin America. These themes
include the first indigenous encounters with Spaniards, colonialism, independence,
neocolonialism (America’s policy of influencing Latin America), national movements,
and neoliberalism, among others. Each chapter is broken into a theme, and Chasteen
effectively demonstrates how that theme affected and directed the energies of
countries throughout the hemisphere. The book is enjoyable to read, and perfect if
you need to know the high points of Latin American history but would also like a
more in-depth insight into its complexities. If you are traveling in Latin America,
doing business there, interested in the relationship between the U.S. and Latin
America, or just interested in history, this is the book for you.

Reviewer: AJ Johnson

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Historia del estado Zulia

[Longhorn Review] Historia del estado Zulia

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, Venezuela — Posted on August 9, 2008, 9:56 am

By: Juan Besson

Traditional, though still very useful, history of this important western
Venezuelan state. The approach is chronological, and each volume includes
interesting and useful transcriptions of primary documents, without, however,
providing information about their sources.

Reviewer: Peter S. Linder

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A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

[Longhorn Review] A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World

Material Type: All, books — Tags: America, history, travel — Posted on November 10, 2008, 10:14 am

By: Horwitz, Tony

When it comes to history and the "discovery" of America, Tony Horwitz is a dummy
and he is betting that his readers are as well. During a visit to Plymouth Rock,
Horwitz discovers, much to his priate school educated chagrin, that he knew next to
nothing about the people who traveled the continent (before and after Columbus),
much less the folks who inhabited "America" before European contact commenced.
Horwitz writes a well-paced and humorous travelogue of self-tutoring as he sweats it
out in a lodge with MicMacs in Newfoundland, follows Coronado's trail all the way to
Kansas (who knew?) and tours present-day Roanoke which was briefly settled, not by
fantasized Pilgrim forebears, but by a, "... motley crew of slave traders, tourists,
castaways and Tudor knights...." Horwitz neatly balances historical narrative with
his own present-day travel stories for an engaging and entertaining history
lesson.

Reviewer: Tim Strawn

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The Book of Margery Kempe: The Autobiography of the Madwoman of God

[Longhorn Review] The Book of Margery Kempe: The Autobiography of the Madwoman of God

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: autobiography, history, medieval, mysticism, religion, women — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:05 pm

By: Kempe, Margery

Who would have thought that the first known biography in English would be written
by a woman, brewery owner, Christian mystic, and mother of 14 named Margery Kempe.
Margery was illiterate so she dictated her biography to a scribe between 1436 and
1438. Her biography begins with her conversion experience which was heralded by a
vision of Christ in her bedroom one night. The story then follows Margery through
pilgrimages across Europe and the Holy Land. She also tells about her heresy trial
in England and her burgeoning mystical life. After the trial the judge gave her a
piece of paper saying that she was not a heretic. Margery used this piece of paper
many many times when people complained to their local religious leaders about her
loud crying, laughing and preaching. His opinion, like most of her contemporaries
seemed to be that she was she was religiously insane. He was also surprised that she
followed Catholic dogma exactly. She never deviated from the church’s teaching even
when she was ranting and raving.

The book is amazingly lively. You get insight into
the personality of a woman who thought Jesus told her to wear white, live apart from
her husband and give voice to her religious opinions loudly and continually. Her
neighbors, her child and her husband complained regularly about her religious
activities. The book gives dramatic accounts of every day experiences, in Margery’s
home town, in many English regions, and as far away as Brandenburg, Rome and
Jerusalem. Just reading about how she traveled in Europe and how she got to
Jerusalem is illuminating.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World

[Longhorn Review] Tobacco: The Story of How Tobacco Seduced the World

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, sociology, tobacco — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:41 pm

By: Gately, Iain

I’m not one for conspiracy theories but this was a fascinating book. I never
would have thought that tobacco growing and selling played such an important part of
our history. One factoid tells the tale: when Benjamin Franklin was sent to London
to negotiate a peace treaty between Great Britain and the future United States he
was also given the task of negotiating the loans George Washington and Thomas
Jefferson owned to merchants in England on their tobacco holdings. This book is
essentially about how drawing smoke from a plant grew from a ceremonial activity in
the new world to a social activity that spread around the world. It is now hard to
find a culture where tobacco smoking is not evident. The subtitle tells it all – “a
cultural history of how an exotic plant seduced civilization.” The story is
fascinating and the book is very well written.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

[Longhorn Review] Women’s Work: The First 20,000 Years: Women, Cloth, and Society in Early Times

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, textiles, women — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:46 pm

By: Barber, E. J. W.

The best parts of this book are the chapters on the development of string.
Barber’s hypothesis is the ability to make string is an important precursor to the
development of civilization. Her point is that once people can make string, then
they can tie things together. This means you can make rope and rope can be used to
tether an animal or child, it can be used to make fishing lines, fishnets, bags and
just as importantly you can use string to carry items on your back. Once you can
carry loads then you can begin to move goods. And once you can do these things you
are on track to make coiled pottery and weave. What interested me the most was the
description of how easy it is to make string. The easiest way is to use already
existing vines, the second step according to Ms Barber is to take plant fibers and
roll them on your leg to make an every expanding string. Rope is merely a number of
strings put together. The evidence cited in this book is pottery and wall paintings,
since most fabric doesn’t survive. Barber examined thousands of early pots and
paintings looking for evidence of early cloth making.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket

[Longhorn Review] The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket

Material Type: All, books — Tags: fish, food, history, Japan, sushi — Posted on November 10, 2008, 2:48 pm

By: Corson, Trevor

The story starts in medieval Japan with the development of proto sushi which is
whole fish pressed on top of rice in a specially designed weighted box through the
development of sushi rice and finally to how sushi developed in Japan after World
War II. Once you have this background the story moves to the United States. The
author delves into how sushi became an American food item now sold in grocery stores
across the country. Corson shows that it was the development of sushi schools in
California that made it possible for sushi chiefs to be trained more quickly than in
Japan. These schools also lead to sushi innovations that would eventually travel
back to Japan—the inside out roll being a classic example. Truly an American tale of
taking something very foreign and making it American.

Reviewer: Susan Ardis

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Los comerciantes de Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca, 1920-1980

[Longhorn Review] Los comerciantes de Huajuapan de León, Oaxaca, 1920-1980

Material Type: All, books — Tags: history, Mexico — Posted on November 16, 2008, 11:55 am

By: Steffen, Cristina

Interesting book with lots of information about the time period and interpersonal
relationships/dynamics between influential families in a typical Mexican
town.

Reviewer: Longhorn Reviewer

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The Saga of Billy the Kid

[Longhorn Review] The Saga of Billy the Kid

Material Type: All, books — Tags: Billy the Kid, biography, history — Posted on November 17, 2008, 11:02 am

By: Burns, Walter Noble

Billy the Kid is the subject of many books and movies. Bob Dylan, called by one
of our English faculty “the American Homer,” wrote the music for one of movies.
Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, wrote a book of poems and vignettes
in Billy’s stead. I doubt our interest in Billy would have thrived so if not for
Burns’ book, published in 1926 and based on accounts of people living then who had
known Billy. Burns creates such a sympathetic character and tells the story so well,
not wanting to go to sleep with Billy’s end on my mind, I had to stop reading just
before the death scene.

Reviewer: Janice Duff

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Christian Lacroix : histoires de mode

[Longhorn Review] Christian Lacroix : histoires de mode

Material Type: All, books — Tags: falstaffpicks, fashion, history — Posted on April 15, 2009, 10:43 am

By: Christian Lacroix

Quoting Eddy in the BBC’s Absolutely Fabulous, “Lacroix, darling."

Reviewer: Beth

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A strange eventful history : the dramatic lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and their remarkable families

[Longhorn Review] A strange eventful history : the dramatic lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and their remarkable families

Material Type: All, books — Tags: biography, falstaffpicks, history — Posted on May 1, 2009, 10:51 am

By: Holroyd, Michael

From the 9/6/08 Times review by Michael Arditti: “He [Holroyd] creates a saga in
which the glories of an older generation are dissipated by children.”

Reviewer: Beth

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The Age of Gold : the California Gold Rush and the New American Dream

[Longhorn Review] The Age of Gold : the California Gold Rush and the New American Dream

Material Type: All, books — Tags: california, history — Posted on January 26, 2010, 3:58 pm

By: Brands, H. W.

This is a pioneering book that takes the California Gold Rush into a national
perspective. Not local history but the integration of the Golden State into the
fiber of American history. Well done and highly recommended.

Reviewer: Longhorn Reviewer

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The Great Escape Review

[Longhorn Review] The Great Escape Review

Material Type: All, Books — Tags: Ally, camp, dig, Escape, Great, history, McQueen, Nazi, POW, Steve, WWII — Posted on November 30, 2010, 3:48 pm

By: John Sturgess

The film, The Great Escape, is a WWII movie centered on a group of Ally POWs that
are trying to break out of a Nazi prison camp in Germany. It is based on the true
story of the elaborate escape plans that the Ally soldiers came up with during the
years spent in the camps. Most of these soldiers are of the Royal Air Force with a
few Americans and various others. The Germans had moved all of the worst soldiers
and escape artists to Stalag Luft III.

Here the prisoners had an entire organization
set up to fool the Germans. Their objective was to aggravate the Germans and attempt
escape. Some soldiers were given the task of security, where they would use an
intelligent alert system to warn others of German patrols. Others were tasked with
making clothing and paperwork to use once out of the prison. Another job was the
digging--soldiers tunneled under ground and out of the camp. Their original plan was
to have 250 men escape through the tunnels in one night. Once out they would spread
out and try to flee the country using their forged documents. Only 76 were able to
escape through the tunnel before the escape attempt was discovered. 50 of the men
who had escaped and been recaptured were murdered. Only 3 men successfully escaped
Germany. All of the others were sent back to Stalag.

Throughout the movie there are
two characters that are especially memorable. Henley, AKA “the Scrounger”, played by
James Garner and Hilts, AKA “the Cooler King”, played by Steve McQueen. Both Henley
and Hilts are American and have an arrogant and rebellious attitude, although they
are fundamentally different. Henley is more of a sweet talker and con man, while
Hilts is sort of a prankster and troublemaker. Henley’s job is to “scrounge” up
items that everyone needs. He does this by bribing guards, picking pockets, and at
one point causing a distraction and stealing parts off of a German truck to use for
pick axes. Hilts has one of the most memorable motorcycle scenes of all time. Once
he escapes he steals a motorcycle and uniform from a German soldier and leads them
on a huge chase. Perhaps most memorable is when he jumps a barbwire fence and tries
to flee to safety. He is given the nickname “the Cooler King” because of his
frequent punishment of being sent to the cooler. The cooler is a solitary
confinement where Hilts spends much of his time throwing a baseball against the
wall. He is sent to the cooler many times for his escape attempts and disrespectful
behavior. Every time he goes, he is given a ball and glove from a friend and adds
humor as he is back in his cell, throwing his baseball to himself. Their comic
relief is very much welcomed after sad scenes of death and adds a much lighter tone
to the movie.

The Great Escape is an excellent film about the rebellious attitude
and enduring spirit of Ally POWs in WWII. The fact that it is based on a true story
makes the movie even better. Knowing that POWs gave the Germans a hard time and
tried until death to escape leaves the audience with a smile and a sense of
satisfaction and sympathy.

Reviewer: Blake Brown

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