Must Read Book

Gordon, Linda, The Great Arizona Orphan Abduction (1999).

I've not even finished this book yet, but already I know it to be the best book I've read in the past year or so - and that includes not just works of history. The epigraph is Blake's "To see a World in a grain of sand," and that's what this book does. It moves from a very particular story - about a group of New York, largely Irish Catholic orphans placed with Mexican families in the copper towns of Clifton and Morenci, Arizona in 1904, and the violent Anglo reaction to this placement on largely racial grounds - to a much broader social analysis, about the workings of racial categories, class dynamics, and gendered expectations that reached all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court. In Gordon's hands, it becomes an extraordinarily compelling story - quickly paced narrative chapters alternate with sharply written analytic ones. I can hardly wait to find out what happens next - and how often does that happen when historians read history? I'm also appreciating the opportunity to learn a bit more about the particular social dynamics of southwestern copper communities.

Recommended by Linda Shopes, Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission

Linda Shopes works as a historian and program administrator at the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission; teaches occasionally in the American Studies Program at Penn State - Harrisburg; is the author of numerous articles and essays in oral and public history, as well as the history of Baltimore; and is coeditor of the new series from Palgrave/St. Martin's, Studies in Oral History.