A provocative portrait that uncovers entrenched racism and class disparities in the debate community and in America as a...

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A TURBULENT, TRIUMPHANT SEASON WITH AN INNER-CITY DEBATE SQUAD

Both the author and his subjects come of age in this thoughtful portrait of an urban debate team struggling to win matches on a playing field clearly stacked against its members.

Each morning in Kansas City, Mo., the students at Central High—nearly all African-American, many of them poor—pass through metal detectors to enter their academically deficient school. One bright spot is the debate squad. Coached by a middle-aged white woman named Jane Rinehart, it has fielded several successful teams on the national circuit. Local journalist Miller followed the program through the 2002 season, focusing on four kids who made up two teams. Seniors Marcus and Brandon ended the season as one of the top teams in the country. Ebony and Antoine, both new to the game, became competitive as they learned the style as the season progressed. Miller does not tell a simple story of triumph over the odds. Instead, he depicts the complicated relationship between Rinehart and her team, the kids’ sometimes bratty behavior, the vast backdrop of negligence and misguided ideology that have helped put Central’s students at a serious disadvantage in American society. His descriptions give the debates the drama of a championship football game. The style of debate was arcane: Kids purchased complicated “evidence” off the Internet and literally speed-read their arguments as fast as they could rather than engaging in debate in the traditional sense. While the author at first believed that debating offered inner-city kids a ray of hope, he came to see its current emphasis on winning instead of genuine argument and dialogue as reinforcing the privileges of wealthy suburban kids while discouraging the participation of teens like those from Central. Deeply changed during the reporting process, Miller became the team’s assistant coach, working to develop ways to bring new voices and styles to the debate circuit.

A provocative portrait that uncovers entrenched racism and class disparities in the debate community and in America as a whole.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-374-13194-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS

Maya Angelou is a natural writer with an inordinate sense of life and she has written an exceptional autobiographical narrative which retrieves her first sixteen years from "the general darkness just beyond the great blinkers of childhood."

Her story is told in scenes, ineluctably moving scenes, from the time when she and her brother were sent by her fancy living parents to Stamps, Arkansas, and a grandmother who had the local Store. Displaced they were and "If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat." But alternating with all the pain and terror (her rape at the age of eight when in St. Louis With her mother) and humiliation (a brief spell in the kitchen of a white woman who refused to remember her name) and fear (of a lynching—and the time they buried afflicted Uncle Willie under a blanket of vegetables) as well as all the unanswered and unanswerable questions, there are affirmative memories and moments: her charming brother Bailey; her own "unshakable God"; a revival meeting in a tent; her 8th grade graduation; and at the end, when she's sixteen, the birth of a baby. Times When as she says "It seemed that the peace of a day's ending was an assurance that the covenant God made with children, Negroes and the crippled was still in effect."

However charily one should apply the word, a beautiful book, an unconditionally involving memoir for our time or any time.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1969

ISBN: 0375507892

Page Count: 235

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1969

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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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