The book succeeds as an encomium to Brooks and his band of pioneering brothers, but misses an opportunity to excel as either...

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FRATERNITY

A tribute to the cadre of black students who arrived at the College of the Holy Cross in the fall of 1968, and to the professor who recruited them.

In the mid-’60s, Holy Cross typically admitted only two black students per year. Convinced that this ethnic homogeneity risked consigning his college to irrelevance in a changing era, the Rev. John Brooks, a professor of theology, set out to recruit promising black students for the class entering in the fall of 1968. Brooks proved to be an extraordinary talent scout. His incoming group of 20 included Edward Jones, who would win a Pulitzer Prize in 2004; Edward Jenkins, who would play for the Miami Dolphins; Theodore Wells, today one of the nation’s premier trial attorneys; and a sophomore transfer student named Clarence Thomas. In this workmanlike debut, Bloomberg BusinessWeek contributor Brady follows this group of courageous young men as they adapted to the challenges of college life in an overwhelmingly white institution and city, and as the college adapted to their arrival. Brooks was a persistent mentor and advocate for these students and their successors in later classes; he insisted that some adaptation was necessary, as the black students “didn’t have the role models in the classroom or the easy comfort of being in the majority.” He argued for extra consideration but not lower standards, encouraging his colleagues to strive “to understand where skin color made a difference, and where it did not.” The actual conflicts that arose as a result of the influx of black students are familiar: demands for more black faculty and students, black studies classes, more scholarship aid, separate black living quarters, a disciplinary process more sensitive to the concerns of students of color. Brady narrates the college’s navigation through these controversies without much further analysis. Similarly, her portraits of various students ably describe their personal struggles without considering which racial issues they confronted may have been unique to the times and which are of persisting relevance.

The book succeeds as an encomium to Brooks and his band of pioneering brothers, but misses an opportunity to excel as either biography or timely history.

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-52474-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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