For fans and students of popular sociology, an eclectic and pithy confirmation that many colorful heroes who speak in...



How comic books’ awesome superheroes stormed the mainstream without forsaking their distinctive ethnic character.

The question mark in the title of this ethnographic study by Brod (Philosophy and Humanities/Univ. of Northern Iowa; co-editor: Brother Keepers: New Perspectives on Jewish Masculinity, 2010, etc.) is, of course, rhetorical. The Hebrew descent of the Man of Steel has long been recognized—and not simply because his creators, Siegel and Shuster, shared it. The prototypical champion, flying in monogramed cape and red briefs worn outside his blue leotard, was, like many of his co-religionists, an immigrant, an alien from another planet. He wore a bespectacled, protective disguise. The superhero genre and the comic book itself, as Brod writes, were developed by Jewish artists and writers barred from other venues for their considerable talents. It’s telling that their protagonists almost always had split personalities. The characters’ back stories indicate survivors’ guilt. Spider-Man may not keep kosher, and The Hulk may have missed his bar mitzvah, but the ethos and sensibilities of these assimilated characters remain clearly Jewish. Earnestly didactic, Brod offers brief accounts of anti-Semitism, science fiction and the crimes of the Nazis. (The first thing Captain America did was give Hitler a frask in punim: a slap in the face). The author also traces the thread of ethnicity through comics’ Golden and Silver Ages, and he salutes old Mad magazine artists and current continental and Israeli graphic novelists. He pays appropriate respect to the seminal work of Will Eisner, Jack Kirby and Art Spiegelman, and to the novel Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon.  Brod’s scholarly but lively narrative does a fine job of tracing “how the people of the book became the people of the comic book.”

For fans and students of popular sociology, an eclectic and pithy confirmation that many colorful heroes who speak in balloons are, indeed, Jewish.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4165-9530-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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