A good argument soundly made, and useful reading in this strangely illiberal election year.

BLOOD OF THE LIBERALS

Liberals are born, not made.

The exact definition of “liberal” may be a matter of disagreement, acknowledges journalist-novelist Packer (Central Square, 1998). Even within his own family, different strains of liberalism (from Jewish academic humanism to Protestant southern populism) made the dinner table a battlefield of debate, although both sides of that debate had a tendency “to side with the underdog, to feel that society imposes mutual obligations from which no one excused”—and to give greedy capitalists a good fight for their money. Packer explores many schools of liberal thought in this gracefully written exploration of recent American political history, much of it seen through the careers of his father (an academic who tried to encourage civil discussion on campus in a time of radicalism and reaction) and his grandfather (an Alabama lawyer who served several terms in the US Congress, where he denounced American intervention in Central America, battled the Ku Klux Klan, opposed Prohibition, and campaigned for the Catholic Yankee presidential candidate Al Smith). Having thus demonstrated an honorable—and quite convincing—liberal pedigree, 40-year-old Packer threads his narrative with coming-of-age stories set on the Yale campus (where, to his horror, his geeky and generally shunned conservative classmates became policymakers in the Reagan administration) as well as thoughtful asides on the nature of the American political experiment, liberal from the outset but doomed to contradictions and setbacks because, as his southern-belle aunt insisted, we humans are fallible creatures. “In the early years of the republic,” he muses, “the triumph of democracy over hierarchy released the massive energy of a free people—not into the pursuit of the public good, but into the individual scramble for private happiness.” That scramble for greenbacks continues, of course, and Packer has choice words for those who favor Hobbes over Locke—and Nixon over McGovern.

A good argument soundly made, and useful reading in this strangely illiberal election year.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-374-25142-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more