Inspiring activists populate a useful revisionist history.



A history of the courageous men and women who roiled postwar complacency.

In his latest book, former Timemanaging editor Gaines debunks the image of the 1950s as a period of quiet contentment. Although the postwar period was “hostile to change,” American society, Gaines reveals, was prodded by activists who dared to speak out against sexism, racism, classism, and environmental contamination. Drawing on histories, memoirs, reportage, and government documents, the author creates a vigorous group biography of several feisty individuals who risked isolation and censure by advocating for systemic change. His subjects include Harry Hay, a closeted gay man who founded the Mattachine Society, “the first sustained advocacy group for gay rights in American history”; feminist lawyer Pauli Murray, feminist historian Gerda Lerner, and civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer, all of whom “saw that race, class, and gender were inseparable, mutually reinforcing sources of discrimination that could only be defeated on the basis of that understanding”; Black veterans such as Isaac Woodard, Medgar Evers, James Forman, and Aaron Henry, who became leaders in a variety of significant civil rights organizations throughout the South; and philosopher and mathematician Norbert Wiener and biologist Rachel Carson, who, from their vastly different perspectives, “converged on the heretical, even subversive idea that the assertion of mastery over the natural world was based on an arrogant fantasy that carried the potential for disaster.” Each individual confronted formidable obstacles: Hay, for example, faced the challenge of arousing support from men who feared exposure and “inspiring solidarity in people who had never wished to be known as a group, around questions most had never asked.” Carson, who wrote Silent Springwhile being treated for advanced cancer, battled a campaign mounted by the chemical industry. Black GIs came home from the war to face violent racist uprisings. Hamer, who worked as a sharecropper in Mississippi until she was 45, was thrown off the cotton plantation when she tried to register to vote.

Inspiring activists populate a useful revisionist history.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4391-0163-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?