Dum’s scholarly apparatus is on full display, which will please specialists but should not deter general readers. His...

EXILED IN AMERICA

LIFE ON THE MARGINS IN A RESIDENTIAL MOTEL

Dum (Sociology/Kent State Univ.) debuts with an ethnographic study of a year in the life of a residential motel.

In this revealing, rigorously academic work, the author tells the stories of “social refugees”—marginalized people including the mentally ill, disabled individuals, addicts, and registered sex offenders—living in the Boardwalk Motel, a squalid two-story building located in pseudonymous Dutchland, an affluent white suburban community. Some townspeople call Boardwalk “the pedophile motel.” For residents, arriving from prisons, shelters, and the back seats of cars, it is “a location of last resort for poor individuals in search of affordable housing.” With great courage and empathy, Dum rented a room, hung out in this “dumping ground for those deemed socially unacceptable,” and befriended many residents, observing their daily struggles to survive in a culture centered on substance abuse. He takes pains to describe the stigma and stereotype facing residents; local critics ultimately succeeded in “sanitizing,” or closing, the motel over code violations. “The stigma of the motel was so blinding that they were unable to see residents as human beings,” writes Dum. By giving voice to the residents, the author allows readers to understand their humanity and their surprisingly vibrant culture, with its many moments of sharing, caring, and community. Dum describes the motel’s underground economy, the sometimes strained relations between residents, and how some individuals created unique identities: one man, working on scrap metal in his room, considered himself an entrepreneur; a couple referred to their room as a studio apartment. The author places the painful experiences of these residents in the larger societal context: rising rates of incarceration, foreclosures, evictions, and homelessness have in recent years turned many nonchain motels into shelters for the marginalized.

Dum’s scholarly apparatus is on full display, which will please specialists but should not deter general readers. His exceptional view of what’s happening to the weakest among us deserves a place on the same shelf with Matthew Desmond’s groundbreaking book Evicted (2016).

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-231-17642-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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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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