An authoritative analysis that will appeal mainly to students and scholars.

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STAYIN' ALIVE

THE 1970S AND THE LAST DAYS OF THE WORKING CLASS

A labor historian traces political and cultural forces that turned the 1970s into a swan song for the American working class.

Cowie (History/Cornell Univ.; Capital Moves: RCA’s Seventy-Year Quest for Cheaper Labor, 1999, etc.) opens this rich but overlong book with an account of the many strikes and other signs of labor revival in the early ’70s, when young, hip miners, steelworkers and others engaged in insurgencies reflecting widespread rank-and-file dissent. In that hopeful time, Rolling Stone hailed Eugene Debs–like steelworker Eddie Sadlowski as an “old-fashioned hero of the new working class” when he made his failed bid for union leadership. By mid-decade, the United States was wracked by stagflation, Watergate and the continuing failures in Vietnam, and had begun making a watershed transition from the optimism of the New Deal to the diminished expectations of the present. As organized labor’s power waned, the concept of a unified “working class” shattered and blue-collar whites took cultural refuge in Ronald Reagan’s populist-right affirmation of God, patriotism and patriarchy. With incisive discussions of the era’s popular culture, Cowie shows how the working class’s evolving struggle to find a place in the eventful decade was evinced in music (Merle Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee,” Bruce Springstein’s “Born in the U.S.A.”), films (Joe, Saturday Night Fever) and TV shows (All in the Family). By the end of the decade, writes the author, the cry of “I’m dying here,” made by Al Pacino playing a blue-collar bank robber in Dog Day Afternoon, could be seen as a lament for the disarray of blue-collar identity, writes the author. By 1980, the TV show Dallas, featuring amoral oil baron J.R. Ewing, was America’s favorite, and “a Reaganesque cross-class alliance” united “white worker and rich man in common cause—to repeal the 1960s.” Packed with interesting stories, Cowie’s book explores all the complexities of blue-collar yearning in the period and shows how the post–New Deal working class, whose needs the country had once addressed, became America’s forgotten workers.

An authoritative analysis that will appeal mainly to students and scholars.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-56584-875-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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