Kirkus Reviews QR Code
THE ZINN READER by Howard Zinn

THE ZINN READER

By Howard Zinn

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 1997
ISBN: 1-888363-53-3
Publisher: Seven Stories

A welcome collection of essays and occasional pieces by the dean of radical American historians. This portly tome is primarily intended for the Howard Zinn faithful, of course, of whom there are likely to be many; his People's History of the United States has sold 400,000 copies, after all. For the uninitiated, this collection often a useful introduction to Zinn's idealistic, Marxist-anarchist view of the world, a view he has championed for many decades. Zinn began his career as a historian at Atlanta's Spelman College, then a school for African-American women; fittingly, a large part of his book is given over to first-hand reports on the civil-rights movement in the South. Rejecting too-easy black-versus-white views of the struggle, Zinn insists that class analysis be brought to bear on the study of inequality: "Once the superficiality of the physical is penetrated and seen for what it is," he writes, "the puzzle of race loses itself in whatever puzzle there is to human behavior in general. Once you begin to look, in human clash, for explanations other than race, they suddenly become visible." Elsewhere Zinn combs through the annals of American history to turn up examples of the evils of capitalism, discussing among other subjects the conduct of the Spanish-American War, the brutal suppression of the Filipino Revolt, the origins of the abolitionist movement, and the ironies of the war in Vietnam (he notes that in 1966 the US was paying $34 in condolence money for each Vietnamese civilian accidentally killed in air strikes--but $87 for every robber tree thus destroyed). When not looking deep into the past, Zinn cheerfully lampoons such conservative foes as the late Allan Bloom, who "swoons over Plato," and generally has a good time arguing for an equitable, just, and division-free America. A worthy gathering for Zinn fans and fledgling historians alike.