THE DISSENTERS: Voices from Contemporary America by John Langston Gwaltney

THE DISSENTERS: Voices from Contemporary America

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Another entry in the ""oral history"" genre pioneered by Studs Terkel. Here, Gwaltney (anthropology/Syracuse) collects a spectrum of voices--some raw, some refined--sounding off on the subject of dissent in the United States. If nothing else, these 27 reports by ""soldiers of conscience"" remind us that going against the grain is as American (and as popular) as apple pie. Gwaltney's spokespeople come from the political left and right, from poor and rich backgrounds, from a variety of ethnic groups. Teacher Bill Ansley (a pseudonym) fights to give girls equal rights in high-school sports programs. Elizabeth Barrett is suing the government because her father died when injected with synthetic mescaline by the Army in 1957. Joe Bangert, a Vietnam vet who describes himself as being ""obsessed with justice,"" lobbies for the victims of Agent Orange, and points out that ""Dioxin"" spelled backwards is ""Nixoid."" Alice Thompson is an Onondaga Indian whose Catholicism puts her in conflict with tribal tradition. Ahmad El-Hindi, a New York businessman, argues for Palestinian rights. Not all the voices speak with equal moral authority: some whine, while others seem to be enmeshed in quixotic personal imbroglios. The selection is top-heavy with rebels from Massachusetts, and Gwaltney has a irritating habit of padding his introductions with descriptions of the food be ate while conducting his interviews. Nonetheless, taken as a whole the book reaffirms the memorable motto of contributor Tim Manley: ""Stand for something or you'll fall for anything."" A good book for those young Americans who think dissent is as passÉ as long hair and love beads.

Pub Date: July 24th, 1986
Publisher: Random House