A useful history of an important, fairly unknown part of the American contribution to the Allied victory.




A long-overdue, sympathetic treatment of the barrage balloon operators who fought valiantly on the beaches of France.

In her debut, journalist and photographer Hervieux unearths a valuable piece of the D-Day landing story scarcely included in the official records: the contributions of the 320th Barrage Balloon Battalion, the only African-American combat unit to land at Normandy. (The 320th medics were heralded for their heroics in saving lives.) The balloons, whose cables and bomb cargo kept the enemy flying too high to strafe the vulnerable coasts, were a novelty but a proven deterrent to the German aircraft. They had evolved from the time of Napoleon through the American Civil War and World War I. Since the armed barrage balloons were maneuvered by cables from the ground, they required highly skilled operators. Though not a military specialist, Hervieux became entranced by the stories of these “forgotten” heroes, several of whom she was able to track down in the last few years. She methodically follows the training of the young Southern black recruits such as Henry Parham and Wilson Monk, among others, at Camp Tyson, Tennessee, from late 1942 onward, where discrimination against black soldiers was staggering. Considered by the then-segregated military as “too dumb to fight,” African-Americans soldier knew they were proving themselves mightily in this unusual mission of diverting bombers from important sites in Britain. Shipped out of New York harbor in November 1943 to Britain during the preparation for D-Day, the 320th was delighted to be welcomed by the fairly unbiased Britons, who offered them a taste of freedom for the first time. The battalion landed on the Normandy beaches after the initial waves of casualties, establishing 20 balloons over Omaha and 13 over Utah on June 7 and incurring fierce enemy fire. Eventually, as many as 143 balloons floated 2,000 feet over the beaches, offering crucial protection to the precariously installed Allied troops.

A useful history of an important, fairly unknown part of the American contribution to the Allied victory.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231379-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.


Straight talk to blacks and whites about the realities of racism.

In her feisty debut book, Oluo, essayist, blogger, and editor at large at the Establishment magazine, writes from the perspective of a black, queer, middle-class, college-educated woman living in a “white supremacist country.” The daughter of a white single mother, brought up in largely white Seattle, she sees race as “one of the most defining forces” in her life. Throughout the book, Oluo responds to questions that she has often been asked, and others that she wishes were asked, about racism “in our workplace, our government, our homes, and ourselves.” “Is it really about race?” she is asked by whites who insist that class is a greater source of oppression. “Is police brutality really about race?” “What is cultural appropriation?” and “What is the model minority myth?” Her sharp, no-nonsense answers include talking points for both blacks and whites. She explains, for example, “when somebody asks you to ‘check your privilege’ they are asking you to pause and consider how the advantages you’ve had in life are contributing to your opinions and actions, and how the lack of disadvantages in certain areas is keeping you from fully understanding the struggles others are facing.” She unpacks the complicated term “intersectionality”: the idea that social justice must consider “a myriad of identities—our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more—that inform our experiences in life.” She asks whites to realize that when people of color talk about systemic racism, “they are opening up all of that pain and fear and anger to you” and are asking that they be heard. After devoting most of the book to talking, Oluo finishes with a chapter on action and its urgency. Action includes pressing for reform in schools, unions, and local governments; boycotting businesses that exploit people of color; contributing money to social justice organizations; and, most of all, voting for candidates who make “diversity, inclusion and racial justice a priority.”

A clear and candid contribution to an essential conversation.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58005-677-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Seal Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 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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