An informed and entertaining biography of the San Francisco mayor and longtime speaker of the California State Assembly. Sacramento Bee senior writer Richardson finds the origins of Brown's most renowned characteristics—defiant pride and unabashed deviousness—in the politician's experience of growing up black in the viciously segregationist Texas of the 1930s and '40s. A gambler uncle brought him to San Francisco, where Brown attended law school by day while working as a janitor by night in the same building. Brown learned politics as an NAACP activist and within the burgeoning Democratic organization created by future congressman Phillip Burton, which ultimately would be called the ``Burton-Brown Machine.'' After his election to the Assembly in 1964, he slowly worked his way into the good graces of legendary speaker Jess Unruh, whose combination of ruthlessness, mendacity, and concern for the powerless set an example that Brown would follow throughout his career. Richardson gives lucid accounts of Brown's machinations, such as getting elected speaker in 1980 by horsetrading for Republican votes and hanging onto the post in 1995 even after losing his majority in the Assembly; Republicans' frustration with the man whose avowed desire was to be ``Speaker for Life'' was a major factor in their support for term limits, which forced Brown to seek a new challenge as mayor. Richardson doesn't cover up the warts in this portrait: Brown's use of power to land high-paying legal clients and wring big campaign donations from special interests, the lack of concrete legislative achievement, and Brown's utter duping by People's Temple dictator Jim Jones. Still, this is a fairly sympathetic look at a politician who did a great deal to minimize the effect of this budget-slashing era on schoolchildren and the poor. This is a must-read for anyone interested in recent California history or in politics as sport. (24 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-520-20456-5

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Univ. of California

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996

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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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