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Mafeking Diary
A Black Man’s View of a White Man’s War
Sol T. Plaatje
Ohio University Press, 1990

“Sol Plaatje’s Mafeking Diary is a document of enduring importance and fascination. The product of a young black South African court interpreter, just turned 23 years old when he started writing, it opens an entirely new vista on the famous Siege of Mafeking. By shedding light on the part played by the African population of the town, Plaatje explodes the myth, maintained by belligerents, and long perpetuated by both historians and the popular imagination, this this was a white man’s affair. One of the great epics of British imperial history, and perhaps the best remembered episode of the Anglo-Boer war of 1899–1902, is presented from a wholly novel perspective.

“At the same time, the diary provides an intriguing insight into the character of a young man who was to play a key role in South African political and literary history during the first three decades of this century. It reveals much of the perceptions and motives that shaped his own attitudes and intellectual development and, indeed, those of an early generation of African leaders who sought to build a society which did not determine the place of its citizens by the colour of their skin. The diary therefore illuminates the origins of a struggle which continues to this day.”

John L. Comaroff (ed.) in his preface


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Makhno and Memory
Anarchist and Mennonite Narratives of Ukraine's Civil War, 1917–1921
Sean Patterson
University of Manitoba Press, 2020

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Manzanar Mosaic
Essays and Oral Histories on America's First World War II Japanese American Concentration Camp
Arthur A. Hansen
University Press of Colorado, 2023
Providing a new mosaic-style view of Manzanar’s complex history through unedited interviews and published scholarship, Arthur A. Hansen presents a deep, longitudinal portrait of the politics and social formation of the Japanese American community before, during, and after World War II.
To begin, Hansen presents two essays, the first centering on his work with Ronald Larson in the mid-1970s on the history of Doho, a Japanese and English dual-language newspaper, and the second an article with David Hacker on revisionist ethnic perspectives of the Manzanar “riot.” A second section is composed of five oral history interviews of selected camp personalities—a female Nisei journalist, a male Nisei historical documentarian,  a male Kibei Communist block manager, the Caucasian wife and comrade of the block manager, and the male Kibei who was the central figure in the Manzanar Riot/Revolt—that offer powerful insight into the controversial content of the two essays that precede them.
Manzanar can be understood only by being considered within the much wider context of Japanese American community formation and contestation before, during, and after World War II. A varied collection of scholarly articles and interviews, Manzanar Mosaic engages diverse voices and considers multiple perspectives to illuminate aspects of the Japanese American community, the ethnic press, the Manzanar concentration camp, and the movement for redress and reparations.

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Memoir of My Youth in Cuba
A Soldier in the Spanish Army during the Separatist War, 1895–1898
Dolores J. Walker
University of Alabama Press, 2017
Memoir of My Youth in Cuba: A Soldier in the Spanish Army during the Separatist War, 1895–1898 is a translation of the memoir Memorias de mi juventud en Cuba: Un soldado del ejército español en la guerra separatista (1895–1898) by Josep Conangla. The English edition is based on the Spanish version edited by Joaquín Roy, who found the memoir and was given access to the Conangla family archives. Conangla’s memoir, now available in English, is an important addition to the accounts of Spanish and Cuban soldiers who served in Cuba’s second War of Independence.
Spaniard Josep Conangla was conscripted at the age of twenty and sent to Cuba. In the course of his time there, he reaffirmed his pacifism and support of Cuban independence. The young man was a believer who unfailingly connected his view of events to the Christian humanitarianism on which he prided himself. Conangla’s advanced education and the influence of well-placed friends facilitated his assignment to safe bureaucratic positions during the war, ensuring that he would not see combat. From his privileged position, he was a keen observer of his surroundings. He described some of the decisions he made—which at times put him at odds with the military bureaucracy he served—along with what he saw as the consequences of General Valeriano Weyler’s decree mandating the reconcentración, an early version of concentration camps. What Conangla saw fueled his revulsion at the collusion of the Spanish state and its state-sponsored religion in that policy. “Red Mass,” published six years after the War of Independence and included in his memoir, is a vivid expression in verse of his abhorrence.
Conangla’s recollections of the contacts between Spaniards and Cubans in the areas to which he was assigned reveal his ability to forge friendships even with Creole opponents of the insurrection. As an aspiring poet and writer, Conangla included material on fellow writers, Cuban and Spanish, who managed to meet and exchange ideas despite their circumstances. His accounts of the Spanish defeat, the scene in Havana around the end of the war, along with his return to Spain, are stirring.

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"The Million Dead, Too, Summ'd Up"
Walt Whitman's Civil War Writings
Walt Whitman
University of Iowa Press, 2021
This book is the first to offer a comprehensive selection of Walt Whitman’s Civil War poetry and prose with a full commentary on each work. Ed Folsom and Christopher Merrill carry on a dialogue with Whitman (and with each other) as they invite readers to trace how Whitman’s writing about the Civil War develops, shifts, and manifests itself in different genres throughout the years of the war. The book offers forty selections of Whitman’s war writings, including not only the well-known war poems but also his prose and personal letters. Each are followed by Folsom’s critical examination and then by Merrill’s afterword, suggesting broader contexts for thinking about the selection.

The real democratic reader, Whitman said, “must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work,” because what is needed for democracy to flourish is “a nation of supple and athletic minds.” Folsom and Merrill model this kind of active reading and encourage both seasoned and new readers of Whitman’s war writings to enter into the challenging and exhilarating mode of talking back to Whitman, arguing with him, and learning from him.

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Minor Salvage
The Korean War and Korean American Life Writings
Stephen Hong Sohn
University of Michigan Press, 2022
The Korean War, often invoked in American culture as “the forgotten war,” remains ongoing. Though active fighting only occurred between 1950 and 1953, the signing of an armistice resulted in an infamous stalemate and the construction of the Korean Peninsula’s Demilitarized Zone. Minor Salvage reads early Korean American life writings in order to explore the admittedly partial ways in which those made precarious by war seek to rebuild their lives. The titular phrase “minor salvage,” draws on different valences of the word salvage which, while initially associated with naval recovery efforts, can also be used to describe the rescue of waste material. Spurred by the stories told and retold to him by his parents Soon Ho and Yunpyo, Sohn enacts minor salvage by reading overlooked early Korean American life writings penned by Induk Pahk, Taiwon Koh, Joseph Anthony, and Kim Yong-ik alongside a later generation of life writings authored by Sunny Che and K. Connie Kang. In the context of the Korean War, Sohn argues, life writings take on a crucial political orientation precisely because of the fragility attached to refugees, civilians, children, women, and divided family members. To depict the possibility of life is to acknowledge simultaneously the threat of death, violence, and brutality, and in this regard, such life writings are part of a longer genealogy in which marginalized communities find representational power through the creative process.

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Mothers, Sisters, Resisters
Oral Histories of Women Who Survived the Holocaust
Brana Gurewitsch
University of Alabama Press, 1999
Provides an important historical record of women’s experiences during the Holocaust
In Mothers, Sisters, Resisters, twenty-five survivors of the Holocaust furnish compelling and historically vital testimony that illuminates and explores Jewish women's experiences during that terrible period. In entries that preserve each voice, personality, and style, survivors describe their efforts to evade Nazi laws and subsequent dehumanization, protect their children and siblings, and maintain their Jewish identity.
Throughout each narrative, from Brandla Small’s description of having her child dragged from her arms at Auschwitz, to Eva Schonbrun’s remembrances of her sister who refused to leave her siblings and save herself, to Emilie Schindler’s account of rescuing Jews left abandoned on a cattle car, we become intimately involved with each woman's struggle and eventual survival. We also gain a new appreciation and understanding of the Holocaust experiences unique to women.

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The Murder of the Jews in Latvia 1941-1945
Bernhard Press
Northwestern University Press, 2000
At the end of June 1941, Latvia fell into the hands of the Germans. This book is an account of life and death during the subsequent Nazi reign of terror. Press describes his escape from the Riga ghetto, his three years in hiding, and the trials that awaited the surviving Jews of Riga after it was "liberated" by the Red Army. Recounting his own harrowing experience and detailing the plight of Eastern European Jews faced with the anti-Semitism of their homelands, the Germans, and the Soviets, Press recovers a lost chapter in the history of the Holocaust.

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Music of Another World
Szymon Laks
Northwestern University Press, 2000
Compassionate yet detached, ironic yet pitilessly honest, Szymon Laks, the kapellmeister of the Auschwitz orchestra, presents a disturbing description of a phenomenon seldom mentioned in the literature of the Holocaust: the presence of music among the crematoria. His story is a testament to the human spirit and to music itself, the beauty of which Laks and others honored even as the lives of so many were destroyed.

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My Dearest Lilla
Letters Home from Civil War General Jacob D. Cox
Gene Schmiel
University of Tennessee Press, 2023
Jacob D. Cox experienced more facets of the Civil War than most officers: by land and sea, in both Western and Eastern Theaters, among the inner political circles of Ohio and Washington, DC, in territories hostile and friendly, amidst legal conflicts both civilian and military, and in the last campaigns in Tennessee and North Carolina. The Union general capitalized on his experience by penning his two-volume Military Reminiscences of the Civil War, one of the war’s finest memoirs and arguably the best by a nonprofessional soldier, as well as Atlanta and The Battle of Franklin, both definitive studies for nearly a century. In 2012, Gene Schmiel, Cox’s biographer, learned of a cache in the Oberlin College archives of 213 letters Cox wrote to his wife, Helen, during the war. Schmiel recognized these documents as a ready resource for Cox as he wrote his histories, and many stand as first drafts of Cox’s analyses of the military and sociopolitical events of the day.

Helen Finney Cox (her husband affectionately referred to her as “Lilla”) was a mother of six and the daughter of Oberlin College president Charles Finney. These intimate and insightful wartime letters show both the fondness Cox had for his spouse and his respect for her as an intellectual equal. To Helen, the stoic, introverted statesman revealed—as he did to no one else—his inner thoughts and concerns, presenting observant, lucid, and informative reports and analyses of the war, his changing life, and his ambitions. This collection illustrates the life of a Gilded Age Renaissance man as he made the transition from untested soldier to respected general and statesman.

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My Fathers Testament
Edward Gastfriend
Temple University Press, 1999
This first-person account, by the youngest of eight children of a pious Jewish family from Sosnoviec in Poland, is remarkable for the faith shown by a teenager faced with the horrifying realities of the Holocaust. Edward Gastfriend, known as Lolek as a boy, remembers in heart-wrenching detail the seven years he survived in German-occupied Poland.

The accelerating Nazi assault on the Jews abruptly shattered Lolek's life. Jews were randomly beaten and arrested, forced out of their homes, deported to slave labor camps, and shot on the streets. During this time, Lolek lost his family, friends, and neighbors, the whole while struggling to hold onto a promise he made to his father before his father was deported. Lolek pledged never to denounce God and to maintain his faith. This covenant proved to be the key to his remarkable survival in several slave labor camps including Auschwitz and several satellite camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

My Father's Testament is an intimate portrayal of a teenage boy trying to stay alive without losing his humanity - in hiding, in the camps, and during the death marches at the end of the war.

Embedded in this unique memoir are two other stories of fathers and sons. One lies in the moving Foreword by David R. Gastfriend, Ed's son, now a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. The other lies in Bjorn Krondorfer's Afterword. Years after he met Edward Gastfriend, Krondorfer was startled to hear his father mention Blechhammer as one of the places where he was stationed as a young German soldier. Blechhammer was where Lolek was held in a slave labor camp. The coincidence led this German father and son to travel back to the site to confront the Holocaust.

My Father's Testament will engage readers interested in history, the Holocaust, and religion.

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My House in Damascus
An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution
Diana Darke
Haus Publishing, 2014
The ongoing conflict in Syria has made clear just how limited the general knowledge of Syrian society and history is in the West. For those watching the headlines and wondering what led the nation to this point, and what might come next, this book is a perfect place to start developing a deeper understanding.

Based on decades of living and working in Syria, My House in Damascus offers an inside view of Syria’s cultural and complex religious and ethnic communities. Diana Darke, a fluent Arabic speaker who moved to Damascus in 2004 after decades of regular visits, details the ways that the Assad regime, and its relationship to the people, differs from the regimes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya—and why it was thus always less likely to collapse quickly, even in the face of widespread unrest and violence. Through the author’s firsthand experiences of buying and restoring a house in the old city of Damascus, which she later offered as a sanctuary to friends, Darke presents a clear picture of the realities of life on the ground and what hope there is for Syria’s future.

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My Journey
How One Woman Survived Stalin's Gulag
Olga Adamova-Sliozberg
Northwestern University Press, 2011
This is the first English translation of Olga Adamova-Sliozberg’s mesmerizing My Journey​, which was not officially published in Russia until 2002. It is among the best known of Gulag memoirs and was one of the first to become widely available in underground samizdat circulation. Alexander Solzhenitsyn relied heavily upon it when writing Gulag Archipelago, and it remains the best account of the daily life of women in the Soviet prison camps.

Arrested along with her husband (who, she would much later learn, was shot the next day) in the great purges of the thirties, Adamova-Sliozberg decided to record her Gulag experiences a year after her arrest, and she “wrote them down in her head” (paper and pencils were not available to prisoners) every night for years. When she returned to Moscow after the war in 1946, she composed the memoir on paper for the first time and then buried it in the garden of the family dacha. After her re-arrest and seven more years of banishment to Kazakhstan, she returned to the dacha to dig up the buried memoir, but could not find it. She sat down and wrote it all over again.

In her later years she also added a collection of stories about her family. Concluding on a hopeful note—Adamova-Sliozberg’s record is cleared, she re-marries a fellow former-prisoner, and she is reunited with her children—this story is a stunning account of perseverance in the face of injustice and unimaginable hardship. This vital primary source continues to fascinate anyone interesting in the tumultuous history of Russia and the Soviet Union in the twentieth century.

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My Life as a Spy
Investigations in a Secret Police File
Katherine Verdery
Duke University Press, 2018
As Katherine Verdery observes, "There's nothing like reading your secret police file to make you wonder who you really are." In 1973 Verdery began her doctoral fieldwork in the Transylvanian region of Romania, ruled at the time by communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. She returned several times over the next twenty-five years, during which time the secret police—the Securitate—compiled a massive surveillance file on her. Reading through its 2,781 pages, she learned that she was "actually" a spy, a CIA agent, a Hungarian agitator, and a friend of dissidents: in short, an enemy of Romania. In My Life as a Spy she analyzes her file alongside her original field notes and conversations with Securitate officers. Verdery also talks with some of the informers who were close friends, learning the complex circumstances that led them to report on her, and considers how fieldwork and spying can be easily confused. Part memoir, part detective story, part anthropological analysis, My Life as a Spy offers a personal account of how government surveillance worked during the Cold War and how Verdery experienced living under it.

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My Version of the Facts
Carla Pekelis, translated from the Italian by George Hochfield
Northwestern University Press, 2005
"What did it mean to be a Jewish child in Italy at the beginning of the century?" Carla Pekelis asks herself. "As a matter of fact, nothing, absolutely nothing!" But shortly, as fascism began its march through her homeland and racial laws slowly constricted her world, Carla would learn that being a Jew in Italy might indeed have a profound meaning and dire consequences. Her recollections form an absorbing, nuanced portrait of a life transformed, and a world transfigured, by the relentless currents of history.

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