Barrett’s vast knowledge illuminates “America’s first ethnic group.”

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THE IRISH WAY

BECOMING AMERICAN IN THE MULTIETHNIC CITY

Barrett (History and African-American Studies/Univ. of Illinois; William Z. Foster and the Tragedy of American Radicalism, 2000, etc.) explores the influence of Irish immigrants on nearly every aspect of American society.

Irish immigrants have always been a hardy group, particularly during the period of 1890-1930, when many of them led the country in politics, trade unions, the theater and the administration of the Catholic Church. The first wave struggled to make a life, vying with not only racism and discrimination, but also territorialism and infighting. However, they had the advantage of numbers and the ability to read and write English. They didn’t settle in small protective neighborhoods but dispersed throughout the cities, which made their presence more conducive to the acculturation of new arrivals than in the ethnic quarters. The author establishes a distinct difference between acculturation and assimilation, the former being a gradual process during which ideas and language are absorbed both from and by the neighborhood. The second generation strove for respect and acceptance by moving into the church and skilled trades. Despite priests and other church workers of different ethnic descent, particularly Italian and Polish, Irish priests and nuns controlled the church, and their native scrappiness made them leaders in the unions. By 1900, more than 95 percent of Irish Americans were literate, and they quickly learned that they could control neighborhoods simply by delivering for their neighbors, whether in jobs or protection, collecting social capital at every turn. Thus the Irish could build political machines, which were blindly followed by “simple-minded” immigrants.

Barrett’s vast knowledge illuminates “America’s first ethnic group.”

Pub Date: March 5, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59420-325-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 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 clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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WHY WE'RE POLARIZED

A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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