Tuesday, October 21, 2014

G405 The Lost Tribe of Coney Island; Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled off the Spectacle of the Century

Title of the book: The Lost Tribe of Coney Island; Headhunters, Luna Park, and the Man Who Pulled off the Spectacle of the Century

Author: Claire Prentice

Publisher: New Harvest

Publishing Date: 2014

ISBN:  978-0-544-26228-7


Readers of Erik Larson will love this tale of sex, greed, and the American dream: A huckster imports a tribe of Filipinos to Coney Island’s Luna Park, and two cultures collide.

The Lost Tribe of Coney Island unearths the forgotten story of the Igorrotes, a group of “headhunting, dog-eating savages” from the Philippines, who were transported to New York in 1905 to appear as “human exhibits” alongside the freaks and curiosities at Coney Island’s Luna Park. Millions of fair-goers delighted in their tribal dances and rituals, near-nudity, tattoos, and stories of headhunting.

Journalist Claire Prentice, who has spent years researching the topic, brings the story to life with her fluid prose and vivid descriptions. The book boasts a colorful cast of characters, including the disgraced lieutenant turned huckster Truman K. Hunt; his Filipino interpreter, Julio Balinag; the theme park impresarios behind Luna Park, Fred Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy; and Dogmena, a beautiful girl who became a favorite with New York’s social elite. The Lost Tribe of Coney Island  is a fascinating social history and a tale of adventure, culture-clash, and the American dream.

The Scholarly Approach:

1.With what particular subject or period does the book deal?

The author focuses on a tribe of Igorrotes that have arrived in early 20th century and how they ended up in Luna Park as well as being at the mercy of Truman Hunt. While that was going on, there were mentions of the war in 1890s that gave America the Philippines which creates an interesting contrast.

2.How thorough is the treatment?

The treatment is very thorough and well done. It feels that she doesn't leave the stone unturned and focuses a lot on the details and the experiences that the Igorrotes have gone through.

3.What were the sources used?

The sources that were used were numerous: mostly what I would think of as secondary/ primary sources. Secondary because she gives her own spin towards the Igorrotes instead of just agreeing with what the papers might have stated about them. Primary because the reporters who wrote the articles and/or stories were the witnesses in one way or the other.

4.Is the account given in broad outline or in detail?

The account is given in detail and spans two or three years at least, from 1905-1907. She introduces the characters, the players and the opposing teams.

5.Is the style that of reportorial writing, or is there an effort at interpretive writing?

I think there is a big and successful effort at interpretive writing because she takes us into the book and lets us experience and get to know the Igorrotes instead of just simply keeping us to the sidelines

6.What is the point of view or thesis of the author?

"As I noted in the introduction to this book, the idea of exhibiting human beings for entertainment is rightly considered grotesque today. Understandably, the subject of the Igorrote exhibition trade is regarded by many modern Filipinos as a shocking example of the subjugation and degradation of their forefathers. I hope that this book, in telling the story of the Igorrotes who were taken to America in 1905 does something to honor their extraordinary lives." (338)

7.Is the treatment superficial or profound?

The treatment does seem profound because everything is detailed and the author let the facts speak for themselves and didn't even put herself as narrator. Seriously, the style is the way I wish non-fiction was written.

8.For what group is the book intended (textbook, popular, scholarly, etc.)?

From the writing and the fact she seems to employ some storytelling as well, I honestly will say that its designed more for ordinary people, although scholars can also enjoy the story and check out the materials that she used.

9.What part does biographical writing play in the book?

Basically she attempts to humanize the players, either causing us to feel sympathy, anger or frustration with whoever might be narrating the story. She mentioned that she got interested in the story because of a picture she had.

10.Is social history or political history emphasized?

While the book does contain both political and social history, I think more of social history is emphasized than political because it focuses on people and what was going on, as well as this episode adding on to a bigger picture rather than it focusing on the ultimate picture and on political figures.

11.Are dates used extensively, and if so, are they used intelligently?

The dates are used extensively in beginning of each chapter the author mentions months as well as the years. I was amazed at how much a year was stretched out.

12.Is the book a revision? How does it compare with earlier editions?

The book is not a revision

13.Are maps, illustrations, charts, etc. used and how are these to be evaluated?

The maps and photographs are used, the map in beginning and the pictures throughout the book. I think they are pretty accurate and add on a lot to the story being told.

Personal Opinion:

I loved this book. Yes, I loved the writing, the details, the research and so forth. Its perhaps one of the more shocking books I've had a chance to read, and at the same time it made me realize that this is something similar to today's reality TV. (Seriously, how real is reality tv? Not real at all, just very exaggerated to help people forget mundane life.) I felt angry at Truman Hunt and what he was doing, angry at how people were treated and that Truman Hunt forces them to fall into a stereotype and so forth. The chase towards the end is very breathtaking and I found myself rooting for the people that were trying to help the Igorrotes and hoping that Truman will get captured. This is also a very important read for everyone, just to remind people that in truth, a century hasn't changed us, but made us have more sophisticated technology. Don't believe me? Think about what Truman is forcing the Pinoys to do, and what TV people are forcing the participants to do or to even behave.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Claire Prentice’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, October 13th: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Monday, October 13th: Booksie’s Blog
Tuesday, October 14th: Kahakai Kitchen
Tuesday, October 14th: Time 2 Read
Wednesday, October 15th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Monday, October 20th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, October 21st: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, October 22nd: She Treads Softly
Thursday, October 23rd: 50 Book Project
Thursday, October 23rd:  Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Friday, October 24th:  Dwell in Possibility
Monday, October 27th: BookNAround
Monday, October 27th:  Mental Foodie
Tuesday, October 28th:  girlichef
Tuesday, October 28th:  Lisa’s Yarns
Wednesday, October 29th: A Bookish Affair
5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see that you really enjoyed this book! Thanks for being a part of the tour.


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