THE FUTURE OF HISTORY

INTERVIEWS WITH DAVID BARSAMIAN

Here, in a series of scattershot interviews from 1989 to 1999 with Alternative Radio founder Barsamian, radical “peoples’ historian” Zinn (professor emeritus at aBoston Univ.; Marx in Soho, p. 291 ; etc.) does his best to show that the relentless dialectic of history has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union. It’s not hard to detect the common thread in these random talks about everything from the poetry of Langston Hughes to the glory days of the Brooklyn Dodgers—Zinn’s political radicalism and his passionately humane critiques of our competitive, profit-driven culture inform all of these intimate conversations. A New York City street kid whose radicalism was born in reaction to the poverty and powerlessness of his upbringing, Zinn grew up to become a Brooklyn Navy Yard worker, a WWII bombardier, and a graduate student. It was as a teacher at all-black Spelman College in Georgia, however, that the turmoil and triumph of the civil rights movement transformed both his politics and his scholarship. Active in the antiwar movement and other progressive causes, Zinn also championed the telling of the history of ordinary people. Under the prodding of Barsamian’s sympathetic questioning, Zinn earnestly and with wry wit asserts his views on subjects from the death penalty to the globalization of the economy, the state of the theater, McCarthyism, the radicalism of Fiorello, LaGuardia, and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Scorning the notion that historians can be “objective”—the very selection of facts, Zinn tells Barsamian, revels the historian’s bias—Zinn boldly reinterprets American history from the landings of Columbus, whom Zinn presents as a genocidal criminal, to Vietnam War—era America. While many will be unable to swallow Zinn’s enthusiastic Marxism, his humanity, honesty, and compassionate perspectives on our often brutal history and culture, and his dry humor, make these interviews thoughtful and compelling.

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 1-56751-157-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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Not an easy read but an essential one.

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HOW TO BE AN ANTIRACIST

Title notwithstanding, this latest from the National Book Award–winning author is no guidebook to getting woke.

In fact, the word “woke” appears nowhere within its pages. Rather, it is a combination memoir and extension of Atlantic columnist Kendi’s towering Stamped From the Beginning (2016) that leads readers through a taxonomy of racist thought to anti-racist action. Never wavering from the thesis introduced in his previous book, that “racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas,” the author posits a seemingly simple binary: “Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.” The author, founding director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center, chronicles how he grew from a childhood steeped in black liberation Christianity to his doctoral studies, identifying and dispelling the layers of racist thought under which he had operated. “Internalized racism,” he writes, “is the real Black on Black Crime.” Kendi methodically examines racism through numerous lenses: power, biology, ethnicity, body, culture, and so forth, all the way to the intersectional constructs of gender racism and queer racism (the only section of the book that feels rushed). Each chapter examines one facet of racism, the authorial camera alternately zooming in on an episode from Kendi’s life that exemplifies it—e.g., as a teen, he wore light-colored contact lenses, wanting “to be Black but…not…to look Black”—and then panning to the history that informs it (the antebellum hierarchy that valued light skin over dark). The author then reframes those received ideas with inexorable logic: “Either racist policy or Black inferiority explains why White people are wealthier, healthier, and more powerful than Black people today.” If Kendi is justifiably hard on America, he’s just as hard on himself. When he began college, “anti-Black racist ideas covered my freshman eyes like my orange contacts.” This unsparing honesty helps readers, both white and people of color, navigate this difficult intellectual territory.

Not an easy read but an essential one.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-50928-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

SO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT RACE

Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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