While the original pilgrims really did host a feast attended by Indigenous peoples in 1621, the occasion neither marked the Natives’ welcome to the Europeans nor initiated an annual event; for the Plymouth colonists, a “day of Thanksgiving” called for fasting and prayer, not a feast, while for the ninety Wampanoag in attendance the gathering signaled merely a local alliance—not a general invitation to take their lands. In This Land Is Their Land (Bloomsbury, $32) David J. Silverman, the author of Thundersticks, looks afresh at a tradition that doesn’t commemorate a historical occasion as much as reflect the accretion of a set of half-truths. Examining four centuries of politics, erasures, and myths, he counters the traditionally one-sided story of the national holiday by putting it into the context of Native American history and culture—both of which pre-dated the European “discovery” of territory neither “wild nor “new,” just as they have survived U.S. efforts to write them out of the nation’s record. Focusing on the Wampanoag, Silverman delves deeply into indigenous rituals, beliefs, hierarchies, methods of warfare, economies, and much more, highlights where Natives and Europeans were most likely to misunderstand each other, and, noting that “the question…is how to move forward,” takes the narrative though Thanksgiving’s latest iteration as the National Day of Mourning.
Four years ago, The New York Times ran a series of articles about a vast, menacing world rarely covered in the media, an offshore frontier crucial to the existence of the planet and yet one in which impunity is the norm in the face of murder, piracy, enslavement, commercial violations, and environmental offenses. The series documented a range of egregious crimes being committed on the high seas and largely going unpunished. It reported on killings of stowaways and others, sea slavery, intentional dumping, illegal fishing, gun running, and the stealing of ships. But there was more to reveal, and the author of the series, Ian Urbina, has gone on to write The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (Knopf, $30). The book is a startling and riveting exposé that bears witness to a woefully under-protected part of the world beset by all kinds of ills but also one vital to the global economy.
Anyone who has followed the journalism and books of New York Times columnist James B. Stewart over the past few decades is familiar with his skills as an accomplished storyteller and the insight and detail he brings to his reporting of financial scandals, corporate goings-on, and political and legal affairs. In Deep State: Trump, the FBI, and the Rule of Law (Penguin Press, $30), he examines the handling of both the 2016 probe of Hillary Clinton’s emails and the investigation of links between Russia and the Trump campaign. Donald Trump, of course, has repeatedly denigrated the Russia investigation as some sort of sinister conspiracy by the “deep state,” a nebulous network of career bureaucrats, intelligence agents, military officers, and law enforcement officials bent on protecting their own power. Is there anything legitimate about this claim? Or are Trump’s incessant attacks on the investigators simply acts of obstruction meant to cloak his own illegal conduct? Those are among the central questions that Stewart gets at in his lucid and timely book.