In vivid anecdotes and moving portraits, Herbert humanizes the many problems he uncovers, and he clearly believes that...

LOSING OUR WAY

AN INTIMATE PORTRAIT OF A TROUBLED AMERICA

Former New York Times opinion columnist Herbert (Promises Betrayed: Waking Up from the American Dream, 2005) reports on his cross-country trip investigating the lives of the 99 percent.

The author discovered a nation demoralized by economic struggles, victimized by crumbling infrastructure, worried about their children’s futures, and feeling powerless to effect change. Herbert maintains that the country can make a fresh start “if citizens overcome their reluctance to engage in collective civic action on an organized and sustained basis” and “intervene aggressively and courageously in their own fate.” Calling for united action, the author likens the potential for change to the civil rights, labor and women’s movements, which were “led by citizens fed up with an intolerable status quo.” Herbert focuses on four main themes: failing infrastructure, inadequate education (especially schools in poor areas), income inequality, and the moral, monetary and physical costs of war. In the Studs Terkel mold, he follows several individuals that exemplify the problems he addresses. A woman who was severely injured when a bridge on Interstate 35 collapsed in Minneapolis is central to his claim that the country is in “a wretched state of disrepair.” A soldier who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan points up the enormous costs of war in dollars and human suffering. Even $4 trillion is an underestimate, Herbert writes, to account for veterans’ disability and medical care. The author interviews students, educators and policy experts to conclude that current reform measures, focused on testing, “have undermined rather than strengthened America’s schools.” Poverty, and the anxiety, grief and fear that result, has a severe impact on student performance.

In vivid anecdotes and moving portraits, Herbert humanizes the many problems he uncovers, and he clearly believes that Americans can, and will, band together to set the nation on a new course.

Pub Date: Oct. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-385-52823-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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