SMOKE AND MIRRORS

VIOLENCE, TELEVISION, AND OTHER AMERICAN CULTURES

A sometimes stirring but numbingly overargued and long-winded defense of television. As it has expanded from its first lonely trinity of networks to the much-promised 500 channels, television has fallen into increasing disrepute. Quite a change, as New York magazine TV critic, and former New York Times book critic, Leonard (Private Lives in the Imperial City, 1979, etc.) carefully details, from the carefree pioneer days, when TV was almost unanimously welcomed into the national culture. Now it is held responsible for all manner of societal ills; politicians decry programmed sex and violence; V- chips are in the offing; and even the notion of a national culture has broken down. But as Leonard copiously argues (long past the point of convincing), the boob tube is not as bad as it's cracked up to be: ``A medium capable of China Beach, M*A*S*H, St. Elsewhere, Northern Exposure, Homicide, and The X-Files has less to be ashamed of than many of its critics do, and most of its competition.'' Then, just to drive his point home, Leonard looks for the good in every type of programming TV has to offer. From mysteries to movies of the week to talk shows to medical dramas, Leonard draws a madly elaborate portrait of a medium deeply and positively engaged with the issues and circumstances of our lives: ``How is it . . . that our politics and culture got so mean while television was asking us night after night to be nicer to women, children, minorities, immigrants, poor people, and strangers?'' But even Leonard's rousing, acerbic style can't pardon his excesses: 40-plus pages on police shows, much of it recapitulation of plots and characters, 30 pages on shows about AIDS—he just keeps going, and going, and going.

Pub Date: March 13, 1997

ISBN: 1-56584-226-X

Page Count: 304

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1997

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. AND THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON

This early reader is an excellent introduction to the March on Washington in 1963 and the important role in the march played by Martin Luther King Jr. Ruffin gives the book a good, dramatic start: “August 28, 1963. It is a hot summer day in Washington, D.C. More than 250,00 people are pouring into the city.” They have come to protest the treatment of African-Americans here in the US. With stirring original artwork mixed with photographs of the events (and the segregationist policies in the South, such as separate drinking fountains and entrances to public buildings), Ruffin writes of how an end to slavery didn’t mark true equality and that these rights had to be fought for—through marches and sit-ins and words, particularly those of Dr. King, and particularly on that fateful day in Washington. Within a year the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had been passed: “It does not change everything. But it is a beginning.” Lots of visual cues will help new readers through the fairly simple text, but it is the power of the story that will keep them turning the pages. (Easy reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-448-42421-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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