Biography Gay & Lesgian Books African American Books History War

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The past may be another country, but not necessarily so distant a land. The issues of our time can be seen reflected, and perhaps enriched, through studies of earlier years. Thus Charles Dew, in "Bond Of Iron: Master and Slave at Buffalo Forge" (368 pages, Norton, $27.50), contributes to our understanding of the institution of slavery in Virginia in the antebellum years. This is a meticulous and well-written description of the iron manufacturing operations of the Weaver family in the years from 1814 to 1865, which sheds a great deal of light on the economic, social and cultural patterns of the age.

Sen. Paul Simon recounts the eventful life of a local abolitionist in his "Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy"(232 pages, Southern Illinois University, $24.95, $14.95 paper), scheduled to arrive in stores on Dec. 14. The murder of Lovejoy in Alton on November 7, 1837 was one of the landmarks in the development of revulsion against slavery; it was also one of the very most shameful events in the history of our region.

"Blacks And Jews: Alliances and Arguments," edited by Paul Berman, (303 pages, Delacorte, $22.50), is a collection of essays, a few of which have been written specifically for this volume, divided evenly between Jewish- and African-Americans. The writers are high-minded and sensible; a lot of grief would be avoided if the views expressed here could gain universal acceptance, for even when there are disagreements the different outlooks are discussed with intelligent understanding.

Of course it is the others the people discussed by the book who make trouble. That is indeed the thesis of "Dictatorship Of Virtue: Multiculturalism and the Battle for America's Future" by Richard Bernstein (350 pages, Knopf, $25). Bernstein discusses some of the extremist Afrocentric dogma alongside many other allegedly "political correct" doctrines. His discussion will confirm the suspicions, and add to the enragement, of anyone who is disturbed by the extent of current conceptions of cultural diversity.

Some of this has been reflected in the development of constitutional law. There has been an epic struggle between those justices who have sought to extend the scope and force of constitutional guarantees (especially those that might be found in the Fourteenth Amendment) and those who have resisted that movement. Robert Newman's "Hugo Black," (634 pages, Pantheon, $30), traces the career of the justice who did so much to spearhead the revision of the status of the Bill of Rights from the 1930s on.

Roger Goldman, of St. Louis University's School of Law, and David Gallen have edited a book about Black's successor, "Justice William Brennan Jr." (369 pages, Carroll & Graf, $24.95) while Peter Irons goes over much the same terrain in his "Brennan Vs. Rehnquist: The Battle for the Constitution" (338 pages, Knopf, $27.50). All of these books are sympathetic to the new wave of constitutional interpretation diversity is not a dirty word here but all attempt to be reasonably even-handed in their judgments. Goldman succeeds best, as his analyses are crisp and uniformly fair. Reviewed by Joseph Losos, a St. Louis investment adviser.

Certainly the most controversial title published this year is "Same Sex Unions In Premod-ern Europe" (413 pages, Villard, $25) by John Boswell, A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale University.

The book's premise is essentially that same-sex love relationships proliferated in antiquity and were tolerated, even blessed, by the Christian Church.

Vatican scholars and others dispute the conclusions. Nonetheless, Boswell is a top-notch scholar, and he has meticulously researched the material.

"Two Teenagers In Twen-ty: Writings By Gay and Lesbian Youth" (185 pages, Alyson, $17.95) is a follow-up volume to "One Teenager In Ten," compiled 12 years ago. Editor Ann Heron has combined essays from the original work with new voices. …