“We need to expand the prevailing definition of patriotism beyond that narrow nationalism that has caused so much death and...

THE INDISPENSABLE ZINN

THE ESSENTIAL WRITINGS OF THE "PEOPLE'S HISTORIAN"

Well-chosen anthology of the radical historian’s prodigious output.

If you know anything about Dunmore’s War or the Ludlow Massacre and are not a professional historian, the chances are good that you read about it in the pages of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. If you know anything about Zinn himself, it is largely because he was a relentlessly dedicated activist, somewhat less public than the likeminded Noam Chomsky but in no way as cloistered as the average academician. He was never shy about a good scrap. Indeed, writes volume editor McCarthy (History and Literature/Harvard Univ.; co-editor: Protest Nation: Words That Inspired A Century of American Radicalism, 2010, etc.), “Howard’s troublemaking—pedagogically, intellectually, politically—is now the stuff of legend, in large part because he was so consistently willing to speak truth to power throughout his life, no matter the stakes.” True enough: He was fired from one appointment, unheard of for academics outside of cases of fraud or moral turpitude, though he went on to enjoy a quarter-century of tenure at Boston University. McCarthy gathers material not just from the well-known People’s History, but also from less easily available publications from the civil rights and antiwar eras. In one, Zinn addresses the question “what is radical history?” The answer is invigorating, speaking to a kind of public history that allows us to “intensify, expand, sharpen our perception of how bad things are, for the victims of the world.” That anticipates some of the “Occupy History” concerns of recent months by several decades, but it is also distinctly collegial; Zinn even gives a tip of the hat to Henry Kissinger, declaring, “Kissinger has always been one of my favorites.”

“We need to expand the prevailing definition of patriotism beyond that narrow nationalism that has caused so much death and suffering,” writes Zinn. For sympathetic readers, this makes an ideal primer for that cause.

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-622-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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 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

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