LOCAL HEROES by Bill Berkowitz


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A mixed bag of interviews with people who have improved life in their communities. Berkowitz is a social psychologist with the appealing--if not unusual--idea that today's heroes, if they're to be found at all, exist not in Technicolor but in our own backyards. Thus, he's ranged over the country tape-recording the sometimes rambling thoughts of Americans who, for various reasons, have tried to make a difference. Some are quite familiar: there's a pompous and defensive Curtis Sliwa (founder of The Guardian Angels); a still-angry Candy Lightnet (founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving), who when she gets going can talk at 270 words per minute; and the personable Lois Gibbs, who blew the whistle on toxic-waste dumping at the Love Canal in the late 70's: nearly ten years and one divorce later, she's in Washington fighting full-time against dumping. Unfortunately, most of Berkowitz's heroes are not lively talkers, nor is he an interviewer in the Studs Terkel mode. Activists like Phyllis and David York (TOUGHLOVE), Marti Stevens (founder of a community theater), and Henry Ware (who started a services bartering exchange) all have their hearts in the right places, but are wandering and indiscriminatory talkers. The one exception is Wally Olsen, the funny, feisty, singing bus driver from Los Angeles, who really does seem to have his finger on the pulse of the 80's. Despite its flaws, this is a brave and even inspirational attempt at proving that selfaggrandizement has not completely taken the place of self-sacrifice in America.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: Lexington--dist. by Kampmann (9 East 40 St., New York, NY 10016)