A left-leaning but readable, comprehensive history of the political and cultural trends that continue to erode any sense of...




Two Princeton professors add to the burgeoning literature about a fractured America, based largely on their university lectures on the subject.

Kruse (One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, 2015, etc.) and Zelizer (The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society, 2015, etc.) organize their history around four principal fault lines: growing economic inequality, racial division, partisan polarization, and conflicts regarding gender and sexuality. In a clear, lively style, Kruse and Zelizer show how developments in these areas have divided the nation and made compromises for the common good more difficult. In coverage of the earlier years, the authors evenly distribute responsibility for the worsening conflicts. However, beginning with the genesis of the Obama administration, the narrative takes on an increasingly leftist slant as the authors minimize or omit the left's contributions to the widening divide, creating the impression that it was largely conservatives who were perpetuating an atmosphere of obstructionism and division. Conspicuously absent, for example, is any mention of intolerance and violence directed at conservative speakers on college campuses or of antifa thuggery generally. Alongside political and social divisions, the authors chronicle the fragmentation of American media, with three major TV networks and relatively sober newspapers of national stature replaced by cable TV, talk radio, and an infinite number of commentators on internet blogs and social media. As is well-known, this multiplicity of sources has led not to a better informed public but to the creation of partisan echo chambers that disagree even about fundamental facts, let alone their interpretation. The authors posit no overarching theories of how all this came about, nor do they offer a path forward to a better place. In discouraging detail, they lay out how short-sighted decisions and inflexible partisanship have placed a consensus on national identity and goals so far out of reach.

A left-leaning but readable, comprehensive history of the political and cultural trends that continue to erode any sense of American national unity.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-393-08866-3

Page Count: 420

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


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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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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