A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.

READ REVIEW

THE HISTORIC UNFULFILLED PROMISE

A collection of essays by American Left icon Zinn (The Bomb, 2010, etc.) originally published in the political journal The Progressive.

“What kind of country do we want to live in?” asks the author in these essays dating mostly from the last years of his life, and thus following the historic arc from 9/11 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the election of Obama. As always, he responds to this question with a radical’s zeal, a historian’s insights and an activist’s optimism. War is on his mind. As the “war on terror” commenced, he railed against what he perceived to be the assault on American liberties this war had allowed. As the invasion of Iraq loomed, he warned against the countless lives that would be lost or ruined. As victory was declared in Iraq, Zinn was there to point out the horror of destroyed innocent lives and the chaos left behind. But the larger issue was war itself: “The abolition of war has become not only desirable but absolutely necessary if the planet is to be saved. It is an idea whose time has come.” On the whole, this is not Zinn at his best, as these are, after all, polemical articles meant perhaps more to arouse the converted rather than enlighten the uninitiated. There is also a certain degree of repetition of themes and phrases, as will happen with any collection of articles not originally meant to be read together. Certainly, many readers will not appreciate his message, but the spirit and passion of the messenger, an American original, cannot be denied.

A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-87286-555-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more