This page is the original source of this review, though you may also find it on Amazon or other sites.
|Book Reviews Home||Free Audio Books|
Book Review of: Driven Out
Availability: Usually ships
within 24 hours
Driven Out, by Jean Pfaelzer (Hardcover, 2007)|
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
Let me start out by praising this author. I normally start a review by listing mistakes. As you read my kudos, you will see why I made that exception for this book.
What it's about
Driven Out addresses the atrocities committed against Chinese people who were living and working on the American west coast (mostly California) at a particular time. That time was the half-century or so between the post-Civil War reconstruction era and the first part of the Twentieth Century.
The same psychodrama plays out today as then, except today "we" hate Mexicans instead of the Chinese. The hatred for (and fear of) the Chinese was predicated on a zero sum game mentality and an ignorance of economic realities. The time, energy, and money spent trying to eradicate the "threat" of peaceful and productive Chinese-Americans would have solved existing problems if applied to those problems rather than diverted to such irrational purposes.
Bigotry is a delusion-inducing poison, so in that sense we are reading a story that constantly repeats itself. The richness of detail in Driven Out allows us to see the particular ways in which bigotry played out in this particular time and place.
Pfaelzer took great pains to thoroughly research events, sort through the facts, and reconstruct what happened. Her method is one of first providing a macro view and then providing a detailed accounting of the subsequent events. For example, she talks about the Eureka method (named after the town of Eureka) in Chapter 4 and explains what it was about. Then, she goes into specific events that occurred as part of putting the Eureka method into practice. Pfaelzer shows the rationalizations that people used to justify their reprehensible behavior.
Eureka was just one of many towns that embarked on a vicious and insane program of forcing the Chinese to leave. In Chapter 5, Pfaelzer uses the same approach to reveal the Tuckee method and the atrocities committed there.
The violence to persons and property nearly always had a veneer of legitimacy. Today, we are all familiar with how IRS employees generally view taxpayers as subhuman scum who are "deserving of whatever they get." This attitude allows those employees to justify all sorts of abuses. This is the kind of "thinking" that occupied the minds of public officials of that era, as well. Rather than uphold the law, they used the power of their position to engage in psychopathic cruelties to other human beings.
It's worth noting that Pfaelzer provided anecdotes about the difficulty of locating records and talked about how some records were destroyed.
A well-written, thoroughly researched, eye-opening book. It's definitely a "must read."
Reviewer's Commentary: The Value of the History Provided by Driven Out
Unless we learn from history, we repeat it. To learn from history, we must first learn the history itself. An understanding of these particular events would be instructive for our times. Then, as today, the newspapers were instruments of disinformation and more concerned with making the news than reporting it. Back then, the "news" was that immigrants were the reason for job loss. Does this sound familiar?
Today, our mainstream media misdirect attention away from solving the core problems that are laying waste to our society. Back then, the misdirection had a similar effect (preventing attention to the right things), but for a different set of problems. In both eras, we see a few "boogeyman" non-issues (e.g., immigration). While Congress continues to spend inordinate amounts of time mishandling non-issuea, they ignore real issues.
Any well-informed reader will not be surprised by the legal maneuvering, dishonesty, and hypocrisy of the people who held the reigns of power at that time, because this is what we get from our lawmakers and bureaucrats today.
What may shock some readers is the extent of the brazen violence rained down upon the Chinese, who were simply minding their own business. For example, the book talks about an incident where people's homes were set on fire and then those people were shot while trying to escape the flames. Those who perpetrated this evil were not prosecuted. One was even appointed later to a high position in law enforcement. History repeated itself in 1993 in Waco, TX, and those killers are free today.
Driven Out provides the reader with insight into a series of shameful events in US history. The inhuman actions were abetted by corrupt government employees, spineless judges, and apathetic elected officials. The behavior spanned across multiple generations for reasons that defy logic. And yet, history repeats itself. The horrific story that unfolds on these pages holds many parallels to events in our own times--also abetted by corrupt government employees, spineless judges, and apathetic elected officials.
About these reviews
You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?
I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?
And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.
This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.
My reviews, contrary to current (non) standards, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.
A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.
About your reviewer
About reading style
No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.
Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read.