Zinn undertakes to expose the destructive side of U.S. history since World War II, after arguing that the war itself was not a Four Freedoms crusade but a venture in power politics that laid the basis for expanded American empire. Crimes against the poor, blacks, women, and the Bill of Rights at home, and against peoples abroad, are the book's theme. For readers without previous exposure to this sort of Kolko-Barnet New Left challenge to the America-the-Virtuous approach, the book may be valuable; and Zinn's jeremiads are generally convincing as far as they go, but his moral energy fizzles out into mere moralism, since the book lacks explanatory strength. What was wrong with America? The "creed" — nationalism, profit and competition, pseudo-democracy excluding mass participation. Why did rebellions occur in the '60's? A new "mood" — rather a circular answer. In a "History of American Society" series entry, one expects analysis of the developmental (and counter-developmental) processes at work. But Zinn tends to fall back on timeless constructs; for example, the Attica massacre is regarded as simply typical of U.S. racism. But does he really believe it could have happened the same way in 1951 or 1961? Zinn's best work, perhaps, has been done on more concrete topics (SNCC: The New Abolitionists, 1964-65; the Ludlow 1912 article in Politics of History, 1971) but it seems that a certain demoralization in the ebb of the old "politics of protest" may account for the book's tone of impotent outrage. In the end Zinn returns to a form of Consciousness III hope which at this point smells of despair.

Pub Date: April 1, 1973

ISBN: 089608678X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Bobbs-Merrill

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1973

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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