A FRAGILE UNION

NEW AND SELECTED WRITINGS

Poignant and vigorous—and some sexually explicit—essays on both personal history and the “herstory” of the lesbian community in America. In her introduction, Nestle (co-editor, Sister and Brother, 1994) describes herself as a “fifty-eight-year-old white Jewish fem lesbian woman with cancer living in New York City in the United States of America at the end of the twentieth century.” This collection comprises reflections on those particulars, ranging from commentary on her working-class mother’s eloquent journals through the history of lesbianism as it began to accumulate in the Lesbian Herstory Archives (now housed in a Brooklyn townhouse), which Nestle founded. Included are chapters on Nestle’s plunge into 1960s political activism—marching and demonstrating against nuclear arms and communist-baiters while keeping her sexual preferences secret from her socialist comrades. Beginning in that decade, however, lesbianism began to come out of the closet and the basement bars (Nestle recalls the latter somewhat fondly). In “The Politics of Thinking,” however, the author reveals her concern that in the 1990s, not only has “religious moral fervor” dampened free discussion of sexuality, but so have certain kinds of political correctness within the gay community, where anti-pornography factions had developed strength. Many of the stories that Nestle wrote then were descriptive tales of lesbian love affairs, and she found herself wondering whether those stories had “hurt lesbian women,” as the anti-pornographers suggested. The author also raises questions about the meaning of gender and about the devaluation of the feminine. In the section titled “A Gift of Touch” are some detailed reminiscences of erotic encounters with lovers—as well as reflections on coming to terms with cancer. Not for the erotically faint of heart, but work that demonstrates the author’s tenderness, courage, and concern for her chosen lesbian community and for “those who have lived in a ghetto of any kind.”

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1998

ISBN: 1-57344-040-X

Page Count: 230

Publisher: Cleis

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1998

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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