As a set of transcripts, this is quite readable, but those new to Zinn would be better off with A People’s History of the...

HISTORY MATTERS

CONVERSATIONS ON HISTORY AND POLITICS

Historian Zinn (History, Emeritus/Boston Univ.) and radio anchor Barsamian have opinionated discussions of America's history, politics and foreign policy in eight interviews from 2002 through 2005.

Zinn describes America as a nation paralyzed by fear and deluded by spin on the brink of an unnecessary Iraq War—suppositions that were derided at the time but are now widely supported. He assesses the ideology and tactics of the civil-rights movement to advise today's progressives on how to merge non-violence and direct action for social change. In these interviews, Zinn sounds more impressed with everyday American heroes than famous politicians, yet he is conversant on both topics. His views cannot be easily defined by partisan politics. There are plenty of rebukes to go around, including criticism of political, corporate and media elites across the political spectrum. Zinn backs up his ideas with facts and anecdotes, so the transcripts are intellectually provocative, even when readers do not agree with the conclusions. As an interviewer, Barsamian does not exercise the same discipline. Some of his questions are sloppy. He asks if The Godfather is a good metaphor for how U.S. foreign policy operates on a mafia code, but Zinn demurs. Another question covers New Mexico's ties to atomic-bomb testing while describing past violence toward Native Americans as “perhaps even the first 9/11”; Zinn has to take time to carefully untangle the confusion. Barsamian is also supportive to a fault—there are few challenges to Zinn's ideas, even for the sake of sharpening the arguments at hand.

As a set of transcripts, this is quite readable, but those new to Zinn would be better off with A People’s History of the United States.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-084425-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2006

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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 moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular...

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WHEN BREATH BECOMES AIR

A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer.

Writing isn’t brain surgery, but it’s rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former. Searching for meaning and purpose in his life, Kalanithi pursued a doctorate in literature and had felt certain that he wouldn’t enter the field of medicine, in which his father and other members of his family excelled. “But I couldn’t let go of the question,” he writes, after realizing that his goals “didn’t quite fit in an English department.” “Where did biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?” So he decided to set aside his doctoral dissertation and belatedly prepare for medical school, which “would allow me a chance to find answers that are not in books, to find a different sort of sublime, to forge relationships with the suffering, and to keep following the question of what makes human life meaningful, even in the face of death and decay.” The author’s empathy undoubtedly made him an exceptional doctor, and the precision of his prose—as well as the moral purpose underscoring it—suggests that he could have written a good book on any subject he chose. Part of what makes this book so essential is the fact that it was written under a death sentence following the diagnosis that upended his life, just as he was preparing to end his residency and attract offers at the top of his profession. Kalanithi learned he might have 10 years to live or perhaps five. Should he return to neurosurgery (he could and did), or should he write (he also did)? Should he and his wife have a baby? They did, eight months before he died, which was less than two years after the original diagnosis. “The fact of death is unsettling,” he understates. “Yet there is no other way to live.”

A moving meditation on mortality by a gifted writer whose dual perspectives of physician and patient provide a singular clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8129-8840-6

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2015

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