An accessible yet thoroughly detailed account of a time in American history that seems very much like our own. Dumenil (History/Occidental Coll.; Freemasonry and American Culture, 18801930, not reviewed) demonstrates in the course of this well-conceived book that a series of far-reaching social issues not only set the tone of the 1920s but also ``formed central motifs that have shaped the modern American temper.'' Foremost among those themes, in her view, was a rising general mistrust of a growing government bureaucracy; she quotes a range of contemporary opinions on the excessive power of federal law, including a US representative's argument against continuing the wartime program of daylight-savings time (``we might soon have laws passed attempting to regulate the volume of air a man should breathe, suspend the laws of gravity, or change the colors of the rainbow''); these give life to her observations on Americans' perennial suspicion of the state. In the 1920s, Dumenil argues, lobbyists for the first time became a powerful political force; large movie studios promoted their wares through national chains, undercutting the neighborhood theater and creating a mass market for mass-produced culture; and nativist political forces mobilized against immigration. Most significantly, women entered the workplace and demanded greater autonomy in determining their economic, social, political, and sexual future, although as Dumenil notes, ``the new women's liberation [was the domain of] white, relatively affluent women, and had relatively little meaning to poor women of color.'' The author is less interesting on the period's higher culture; her whirlwind tour of Hemingway, Dos Passos, Cummings, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Stein, and their peers is far too cursory to serve her argument. Nor does she give enough emphasis to WW I's role in setting the stage for the 1920s' revolt against late Victorian sensibilities. Still, a useful, circumstantial overview of a tumultuous era.

Pub Date: June 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-8090-6978-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Hill and Wang/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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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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