An engaging read enhanced by wit and a passion for social justice.


A baby boomer’s debut memoir places the author’s experiences within the context of broader cultural and world events, all from an unabashedly liberal viewpoint.

Caplan, grandson of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, was born in 1949 and grew up—and still lives—in Wallingford, Connecticut, just outside of Hartford. “I was born here, all right, but I am hardly what you would call a Connecticut Yankee. My family and I are over 220 years too late to America for that distinction,” he writes, setting the pleasantly edgy linguistic tone of the narrative. His 1950s and ’60s childhood was a happy one. Prep school at the Blair Academy in New Jersey was followed by Antioch College in Ohio, where Caplan went on to enjoy the indulgences that readers often associate with boomer counterculture—plenty of music, sex, and drugs. (“I know lots of people who cannot run for president. Too many people saw us roll, smoke, inhale, sniff, or swallow something—often, and with gusto.”) He intended to travel and be a writer but returned to Wallingford to help his mother when his father died in the winter of 1974. Caplan whiplashes back and forth in time. One moment he is in the present, talking with his dog Clio, and the next paragraph, he’s decades in the past. Even when reflecting on earlier events, he doesn’t always stick to a sequential timeline. The stream-of-memory retrospective can be confusing. Intriguing Americana tidbits are tucked into family history: for example, Caplan describes how midcentury suppliers of larger independent supermarkets like the one his father owned “dropped off” individual railroad cars “in the railroad yards of small towns and big cities....Then they sent the key to the locked boxcars to the owner of the supermarket.” And well-known factoids are presented with Caplan’s unique style of juxtaposition: “In 1970, Colin Powell was a soldier in Vietnam. He was thirty-three years old. Dick Cheney was twenty-nine. During the Vietnam War, Dick Cheney received five deferments from military service.” Still, this remains an enjoyable, free-wheeling review of the life of a boomer.

An engaging read enhanced by wit and a passion for social justice.

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5328-5295-4

Page Count: 284

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2017

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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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