A sharp, dizzying history lesson that packs a punch.




A time capsule of 1980s media memorabilia and its relevance to contemporary society.

Born in 1975 and a proud child of the ’80s, In These Times senior editor and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist Sirota (The Uprising: An Unauthorized Tour of the Populist Revolt Scaring Wall Street and Washington, 2008, etc.) ponders what it means when America has suddenly started “speaking the ancient 1980s dialect of my youth.” Growing up with two brothers, the author recalls all three emphatically employing the vernacular and lexicon of their “eighties religion” to maximum effect. Sirota’s mildly cathartic, socially significant revival posits that as the children of the ’80s reach middle age, the mindset of that era will resurface. His proof begins at “the altar of Michael J. Fox”—specifically, his character Alex Keaton on Family Ties. The author cleverly parallels President Obama’s confidence to the popularity of Michael Jordan, adding that many Republicans believe Obama to be the modern-day Jimmy Carter. The scope of the author’s period knowledge is indisputable, and he parlays his experience as a Democratic strategist into politically charged discussions about the anti-governmental preaching on The A-Team, Ronald Reagan’s questionable approach to Vietnam veterans and the bulletproof vigor of movies like Rambo, Red Dawn and Top Gun. While applauding the morale-boosting heft of Nike’s 1988 “Just Do It” campaign, Sirota evenhandedly criticizes today’s reality-TV–obsessed, attention-starved Facebook generation for its self-centeredness as something “the 1980s did to us, and what the 1980s mentally makes us want to be.” Footnotes accompany the author’s consistently effervescent text, underscoring his contention that everything from The Dukes of Hazzard to Thirtysomething has made a significant impact on contemporary society. Maybe most important is Sirota’s chapters on the impact The Cosby Show and others like it had on ’80s black America and, now, on Obama’s “postracial” image.

A sharp, dizzying history lesson that packs a punch.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-345-51878-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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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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