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CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE

SPORTSWRITERS AND THE LONG CAMPAIGN TO DESEGREGATE BASEBALL

Although the paragraphs are sometimes thick with detail, the author has documented a story of immense cultural importance.

The author of Blackout: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Spring Training (2004) returns with a comprehensive account of how journalists—black and white—covered the emerging story of the integration of Major League Baseball.

Lamb (Media Studies/Coll. of Charleston) brings all his scholarly tools to the project—most notably, a fierce desire to locate every source, document every significant utterance by a baseball official, player, writer, editor and remain as disinterested as possible in a discussion of a time that reeked with racism and moral cowardice. Emerging as heroes are the black press and the American Communists, whose Daily Worker worked tirelessly to end baseball’s apartheid. As Lamb notes, there had been black players in professional baseball in the late 19th century, but that soon ended. Owners drew a color line in the sand (there was no written proscription), then spent decades denying there was such a line, spewing out disingenuous excuses about the abilities of blacks, the fear of race riots and the problem of having black players train in the Jim Crow South. Consequently, black stars like Josh Gibson, Satchel Paige and countless others labored in obscurity virtually their entire careers. Lamb begins in 1933 at baseball’s winter meetings—and with the minstrel show that was part of their entertainment. Near the end is an account of another owners’ meeting in 1946—after the signing of Jackie Robinson—and again the entertainment included racist skits. The author’s narrative includes numerous bad guys: owners Clark Griffith, Tom Yawkey and Larry MacPhail, and a laundry list of white journalists, most ignoble of whom was Alfred Henry Spink, who, via his Sporting News, lobbied hard against integration—then picked Robinson as the Rookie of the Year.

Although the paragraphs are sometimes thick with detail, the author has documented a story of immense cultural importance.

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8032-1076-9

Page Count: 408

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: Jan. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2012

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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