A snappy scholarly work that captures a momentous shift in American environmental thinking, made exciting by the fire of...




Rome (History/Penn State Univ.) offers a piquant interpretation of the links between the mass migration to suburbia and the rise of the environmental movement.

Working like a bloodhound, the author follows the trail of the environmental costs of tract housing, explaining how they became translated into environmental issues and then became part of the public agenda. Writing with real momentum (and a whiff of the lecture hall), Rome details how the booming postwar mass-consumption economy became an environmental disaster area. He argues clearly and persuasively that, as suburban developments started falling apart like old jalopies, environmental movements took shape bit by bit. Building in sensitive areas (such as floodplains or wetlands) produced flooding, wholesale land-clearing produced erosion, and septic problems spurred even the government to act. Each degradation found expression in a citizen’s group and, as open space disappeared right before our eyes, a wilderness and outdoors movement took shape. The machine in the garden, from oil spills to Silent Spring, prompted an environmentalism with aesthetic and social concerns. Rome also demonstrates how a taste for cleanliness, comfort, and convenience has slowed progress, and how the Wise Use movement gets fuel from environmental regulations that puncture the dream of home and land ownership (a notion built into the nation’s economic and political structure following the Depression’s class bitterness). Though Rome thumps his chest over what he considers his original ideas concerning the narrow self-interests of homeowners, the sharing of some environmentalist and conservationist goals, and the environmentally conscious behavior of a few government agencies, these are pretty well-established opinions. The final indignity of it all, Rome sadly relates, is that suburbia continues its unabated growth today, with all the old players in the suburban-industrial complex still in command, and still wrecking the landscape.

A snappy scholarly work that captures a momentous shift in American environmental thinking, made exciting by the fire of Rome’s passionate critique of suburbia.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-521-80490-6

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Cambridge Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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