BLACK STUDIES, RAP, AND THE ACADEMY

From former M.L.A. president Baker (English and Black Studies/University of Pennsylvania): four essays in defense of Black Studies and rap that tend to grow muddled and slip from your grasp. ``Black Studies: A New Story'' offers a superficial glance at what brought Black Studies into being (``What was required...was a revocabularization of academic discourse'') and at how the new discipline was greeted by the establishment (``What generally occurred...was moral panic as a function of territorial contestation''). In ``The Black Urban Beat: Rap and the Law,'' Baker sees rap as a way ``to provide sometimes stunning territorial confrontations between black urban expressivity and white law-and- order.'' This last being arguably a false dichotomy doesn't keep Baker from concluding—after a faintly unified meditation on urban space, rappers 2 Live Crew, and the Central Park jogger case—that ``Positive sites of rap represent...a profitable, agential resource for an alternative American legality.'' Meaning becomes increasingly obscured as the essays move on and Baker hides behind yet more words. The uncertain merits of 2 Live Crew are little clarified by his assertion that the group ``is less a causal site of agency than a single point of imbrication in an intricate social (and preeminently materialist) narrative.'' Rap, Baker concludes (``Hybridity, Rap, and Pedagogy for the 1990s''), ``is now classical black sound,'' but the claim isn't strengthened by the sound of the essayist's own reasoning—as in the following parenthetical definition en route to his conclusion: ``By postmodern I intend the nonauthoritative collaging or archiving of sound and styles that bespeaks a deconstructive hybridity. Linearity and progress yield to a dizzying synchronicity.'' Ideas worth hearing—and knowing—more about. But, on balance, Baker offers here a float across jargon-choked shallows.

Pub Date: June 15, 1993

ISBN: 0-226-03520-4

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1993

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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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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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