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review 2018-08-12 18:08
When the Southwest was the far north
The Mexican Frontier, 1821-1846: The American Southwest Under Mexico - David J. Weber

Before the American Southwest was the American Southwest it was the northern frontier of Mexico, representing a third of the territory of the country after its leaders declared their independence from Span in 1821. What the region was like in the quarter century between its possession by Spain and its conquest by the United States is the subject of David J. Weber's book. It's a comprehensive work that begins by examining how the news of Augustin de Iturbide's declaration of independence was received in the region and concludes with the outbreak of the war that would lead to the U.S.'s annexation of the territory.

 

While Weber's text surveys the span of human activity in the territory, two themes emerge over the course of his text. The first is the sense of isolation for the Hispanic residents of the region. Independence was a fait accompli for them, one in which they had no say. In many ways little changed with the news, as the region went from being the sparsely settled northern region of Spain's empire in the Americans to the sparsely settled northern lands of the United States of Mexico. Many of the key issues and developments that defined the area during the last decades of Spanish control continued, with the Mexicans dealing with economic change and relations the Indians just as they had before. While independence meant shifts in the dynamics involved, these were concerns that engaged locals no matter who was in charge,

 

What changed most with Mexican independence was its relations with the United States. This emerges as the second theme of the book: the growing drift of the region into the U.S. orbit. Independence from Spain meant an end to the mercantilist policies restricting trade with the United States, just as the presence of Americans on the frontier was growing. American merchants and trappers eagerly entered the region in search of economic opportunities, establishing a visible presence for the U.S. while economically orienting the region to the northeast. Close behind them were American settlers, whose presence in Texas in particular disrupted the dynamics of the region. Mexican authorities were conflicted about this presence, welcoming the economic benefits brought by trade and the stabilizing effects of non-Indian settlement while increasingly wary of what would follow from the growing American interest in the region. Their concerns would be validated with the outbreak of war in 1846, as the American presence served as the wedge for annexation two years later.

 

Weber makes plain the factors that led to the region's takeover by the United States, yet this is only one of his book's many strengths. For while Weber details the growing interest in the region by many Americans it also tells the story of the residents themselves and the lives they led. His chapters highlight the many challenges they faced, from their limited resources to the indifference with which they were often treated by Mexican institutions and the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Such coverage illustrates the challenges of life on the frontier in the early 19th century while underscoring how annexation came about. In all it makes Weber's book essential reading for anyone interested in the region, as he fills in the valuable details of what proved a critical period of transition in its history.

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review 2018-08-01 22:30
THE HOLY GHOST SPEAKEASY AND REVIVAL by Terry Roberts
The Holy Ghost Speakeasy and Revival - Terry Roberts

 

The American South in the 1920's was an interesting region. With religious folk preaching against the sins of drinking alcohol, and prohibition making it a prominent job option for those looking to make some money, here comes Jedidiah Robbins on his gospel train. With his team selling bibles, (and bottles out the back), he is a man full of contradiction. He is what made this book so compulsively readable.

 

Jed and his group tour mostly in Appalachia and find themselves in trouble there from time to time. With local lawman trying to keep law and order, with the KKK, (unhappy with the colorful nature of Jed's team), and the additional appearance of H.L. Mencken trying to unveil a scam, it seems there is never a dull moment.

 

I myself am not a religious type and I usually do not appreciate novels that attempt to preach at me, however stealthily that attempt may be. I do think some of that was going on here. It was my fascination with Jed Robbins that kept me going. I admit there were a few other characters that interested me as well-oddly enough-one of them was God himself.

 

I think if Jed were a through and through man of the cloth this book would have been boring. But Jed was a man of the world, and even if it wasn't he himself that was distributing that bootleg liquor, it was his team doing so, and it was with his full knowledge. They did some other things that many would deem ungodly as well. Yet somehow Jed walked the walk of a true believer and he was sometimes so sweet and kind, he brought a tear to my eye.

 

A quick note about the writing-Terry Roberts has a deft hand with language and that's another reason this book was so difficult to put down. I have several highlighted passages that I thought were just beautiful, but I can't quote them here until the book is released. (August 21, 2018, people! Mark your calendars!) A few times I just had to marvel over sentences that flowed like a mountain stream through my mind and emptied into the river of my heart. I may not be a religious person, but I am a spiritual person and the language here touched my spirit.

 

THE HOLY GHOST SPEAKEASY AND REVIVAL is worthy of your time. Even if you're not religious, even if historical fiction isn't your true thing, (I'm not and it isn't, but the title sucked me in), this is a wonderfully written book that will lead you down through the paths of Appalachia into an America that is long gone, but fondly remembered here.

 

Highly recommended!

 

*Thanks to Edelweiss and Turner Publishing for the e-ARC of this book in exchange for my honest feedback. This is it.*

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review 2018-07-10 03:26
Ghostland - where we all live
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

Disclosure:  I accessed this book through my local public library's digital collection.  I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of romance fiction and assorted non-fiction.

 

 

I truly enjoyed this book, and found the author's perspective both interesting and ultimately respectful of believers and skeptics alike.

 

It would be impossible, of course, for a single volume to catalogue all the thousands, perhaps millions, of alleged hauntings in this country.  Dickey can probably be accused with some justification of cherry-picking the examples he used to best illustrate his theories: among them that whether ghosts -- as the more or less embodied spirits of the dead -- are real or not, we need them.  And so we would have created them anyway even if they weren't real.

 

The aspect of the book that fascinated me the most was the way he deconstructed some of the most well-known and even well-documented hauntings, as evidence that it's in the creation of a ghostly narrative that fits what we collectively as a culture want the haunting to be that it comes alive, pun of course intended.

 

Because I'm not a fan of horror fiction -- it's all I can do to get through the least horrific Lovecraft for Halloween Bingo -- I can't say if the creation of a fictional haunting narrative follows that theory.  I do, however, think it applies to the gothic romance.  The haunting, the ghostly presence, has to integrate with the living characters in an organic way for the two stories to work with each other.

 

Recommended!

 

 

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text 2018-07-09 22:05
Reading progress update: I've read 253 out of 401 pages.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

This is proving to be one of those books that brings together a lot of old friends.  There are references to James W. Loewen and Frederic Jameson and Walter Benjamin.

 

Loewen, of course, is contemporary and accessible.  I can't recommend enough his Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America.

 

Jameson is less accessible, but then he is a theorist more than a commentator, imho.

 

Even before Dickey mentioned Walter Benjamin, I distinctly felt his influence -- his spirit? -- from The Arcades Project, a good portion of which I read in grad school.  I still have his Reflections, one of the texts for that particular (and particularly annoying) class, because the texts were far better than the instructor.  (Yes, I'm lookin' at you, Arthur Sabatini.)

 

I've reached the part in Ghostland that deals with haunted cities, and it's almost impossible not to have a slideshow of abandoned Detroit buildings running through my imagination.

 

 

 

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text 2018-07-08 18:22
Reading progress update: I've read 136 out of 401 pages.
Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places - Colin Dickey

Pages read are based on digital edition accessed via the public library.

 

When Obsidian Blue reviewed this last year, I was very much intrigued and put it on my mental list of books to track down.  Imagine my delight on finding it in he library's digital collection.  It was while trying to access Ghostland that I screwed up and ended up reading another couple chapters of that silly Breaking the Rules, but once I got into Ghostland, I was pretty well hooked.

 

My own current work in progress involves an allegedly haunted house, so Ghostland is sort of research.  Ah, if only all research could be this enjoyable!

 

As I prepared to post this status report, I read through all the reviews here on BookLikes, just to get a feeling for how other people reacted.

 

Even though I've had my own experiences with the strange and unexplainable, I tend to be more of a skeptic than a believer when it comes to ghosts and so on.  I'd like to believe, but I'm too rational and logical.

 

So I'm finding Colin Dickey's attitude less offensive than other reviewers have.  In fact, I'm finding it refreshing.

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