A useful summary of recent events—and one that does Allen proud.

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THE BEST OF TIMES

AMERICA IN THE CLINTON YEARS

An absorbing survey of America’s second Gilded Age.

Veteran journalist Johnson (The System, 1996, etc.) borrows a page from social historian Frederick Lewis Allen in sketching an account of “what in the future may be considered a distinct era in American history”—namely, the trend- and scandal-ridden 1990s. Four large themes occupy much of this unchallenging, reader-friendly study. On the first, the explosion of technology, Johnson ranges from gee-whiz optimism to should-we-worry pronouncements, echoing Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov’s comment on his loss to an IBM computer called Big Blue, “I'm a human being. When I see something that is well beyond my understanding, I’m afraid.” On the second theme, the growing cult of celebrity and media power, Johnson offers well-honed observations on the now-shopworn O.J. Simpson murder trial and some of its attendant ironies, including a surge in SUV sales following the infamous Bronco chase; he is less successful at capturing the spirit of media tycoons such as David Geffen and Michael Bloomberg, both of whom he profiles. On the third, American culture and society at the dawn of the millennium, Johnson closely follows the ups and downs of the market, fashions, college-exam scores, and other telling indicators of modern life, while on the fourth, the career of William Jefferson Clinton, he does a solid job of portraying a president who survived his terms in office largely because his enemies persistently “misread the American public,” which, it seems, was more concerned with riding the wave of prosperity than punishing its leader for his considerable sins. Johnson’s approach is History Lite, with no discernible ideology, which makes this a strong candidate for use in survey courses.

A useful summary of recent events—and one that does Allen proud.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-15-100445-5

Page Count: 640

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2001

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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

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A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the...

AN AFRICAN AMERICAN AND LATINX HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

A concise, alternate history of the United States “about how people across the hemisphere wove together antislavery, anticolonial, pro-freedom, and pro-working-class movements against tremendous obstacles.”

In the latest in the publisher’s ReVisioning American History series, Ortiz (History/Univ. of Florida; Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, 2005, etc.) examines U.S. history through the lens of African-American and Latinx activists. Much of the American history taught in schools is limited to white America, leaving out the impact of non-European immigrants and indigenous peoples. The author corrects that error in a thorough look at the debt of gratitude we owe to the Haitian Revolution, the Mexican War of Independence, and the Cuban War of Independence, all struggles that helped lead to social democracy. Ortiz shows the history of the workers for what it really was: a fatal intertwining of slavery, racial capitalism, and imperialism. He states that the American Revolution began as a war of independence and became a war to preserve slavery. Thus, slavery is the foundation of American prosperity. With the end of slavery, imperialist America exported segregation laws and labor discrimination abroad. As we moved into Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, we stole their land for American corporations and used the Army to enforce draconian labor laws. This continued in the South and in California. The rise of agriculture could not have succeeded without cheap labor. Mexican workers were often preferred because, if they demanded rights, they could just be deported. Convict labor worked even better. The author points out the only way success has been gained is by organizing; a great example was the “Day without Immigrants” in 2006. Of course, as Ortiz rightly notes, much more work is necessary, especially since Jim Crow and Juan Crow are resurging as each political gain is met with “legal” countermeasures.

A sleek, vital history that effectively shows how, “from the outset, inequality was enforced with the whip, the gun, and the United States Constitution.”

Pub Date: Jan. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8070-1310-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Beacon

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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