A compelling history that brings forgotten heroes back in the spotlight.



A pilot and aviation historian makes her book debut with a deeply researched history of the Women Airforce Service Pilots, a group of more than 1,100 civilian fliers who, during World War II, made a valiant contribution to the military.

In 1942, writes Landdeck (History/Texas Woman’s Univ.), Eleanor Roosevelt called women pilots “a weapon waiting to be used,” spurring the project of recruiting members for the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron, led by a “coolheaded and personable” young woman, Nancy Love. Competing with Love for leadership was another acclaimed flier, ambitious, outspoken Jacqueline Cochran, who lobbied for her own position; as a compromise, she was put in charge of the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, with her graduates moving on to Love’s ferrying group. In 1943, the Army Air Force merged the groups into the WASP. Chosen from more than 25,000 skilled applicants who already had considerable flying hours, the members of the WASP underwent rigorous additional training to earn their coveted silver wings. Freeing male pilots to fly bombing missions, the WASP ferried more than 12,000 military planes and engaged in training exercises with gunners. Landdeck reveals racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia within both programs. When two women were reported to be dating, they were immediately dismissed. The media portrayed the women pilots with glowing articles in the first months of their service, but as the war wound down and the Allies were increasingly successful, male flight instructors in the War Training Service complained that the women were trying to steal their jobs. Cochran’s efforts to bring the WASP into the military, ensuring them benefits and pay equal to male service members, inflamed the protests. Congressional bills failed, and the WASP was described as an “experiment” that was no longer needed. Drawing on memoirs, archives, and interviews with surviving WASP members, Landdeck creates palpable portraits of many women’s experiences and their lives after the program was disbanded.

A compelling history that brings forgotten heroes back in the spotlight.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6281-0

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics,...


A provocative analysis of the parallels between Donald Trump’s ascent and the fall of other democracies.

Following the last presidential election, Levitsky (Transforming Labor-Based Parties in Latin America, 2003, etc.) and Ziblatt (Conservative Parties and the Birth of Democracy, 2017, etc.), both professors of government at Harvard, wrote an op-ed column titled, “Is Donald Trump a Threat to Democracy?” The answer here is a resounding yes, though, as in that column, the authors underscore their belief that the crisis extends well beyond the power won by an outsider whom they consider a demagogue and a liar. “Donald Trump may have accelerated the process, but he didn’t cause it,” they write of the politics-as-warfare mentality. “The weakening of our democratic norms is rooted in extreme partisan polarization—one that extends beyond policy differences into an existential conflict over race and culture.” The authors fault the Republican establishment for failing to stand up to Trump, even if that meant electing his opponent, and they seem almost wistfully nostalgic for the days when power brokers in smoke-filled rooms kept candidacies restricted to a club whose members knew how to play by the rules. Those supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders might take as much issue with their prescriptions as Trump followers will. However, the comparisons they draw to how democratic populism paved the way toward tyranny in Peru, Venezuela, Chile, and elsewhere are chilling. Among the warning signs they highlight are the Republican Senate’s refusal to consider Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee as well as Trump’s demonization of political opponents, minorities, and the media. As disturbing as they find the dismantling of Democratic safeguards, Levitsky and Ziblatt suggest that “a broad opposition coalition would have important benefits,” though such a coalition would strike some as a move to the center, a return to politics as usual, and even a pragmatic betrayal of principles.

The value of this book is the context it provides, in a style aimed at a concerned citizenry rather than fellow academics, rather than in the consensus it is not likely to build.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6293-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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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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