Recommended for readers already smitten with Zinn.

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HOWARD ZINN

A LIFE ON THE LEFT

A star-struck biography of the prominent historian and activist.

Howard Zinn (1992–2010) is best known as the author of the controversial A People’s History of the United States (1979), written to counteract a perceived bias toward the wealthy and privileged in standard history textbooks by highlighting the contributions of those conventionally omitted. Though as unbalanced in one direction as Zinn felt the standard texts were in another, it has been widely influential in affecting the content of a whole generation of textbooks and course syllabi. Zinn presents a challenge for a biographer. During the 1960s, he worked courageously in the civil rights movement and against the Vietnam War; he was closely associated with such prominent figures as Stokely Carmichael, Tom Hayden and Daniel Ellsberg. His emotional life, however, is inaccessible; Zinn disliked discussing emotions and ruthlessly purged his archives of anything touching on feelings or relationships. Apart from an increasing attraction to anarchism, Zinn’s political philosophy never evolved much beyond the conventional socialism he adopted in adolescence. Nor did he move on from the issues of the ’60s to newer causes like women’s and gay rights or globalization. Throughout a long academic career, he confined himself to discussing racial and labor issues and opposing various American military interventions. Consequently, little remains to a biographer but a succession of demonstrations attended, books and articles written, and feuds with two college presidents. By way of context, prize-winning author Duberman (History Emeritus/CUNY Graduate School; A Saving Remnant: The Radical Lives of Barbara Deming and David McReynolds, 2011, etc.) includes summaries of contemporaneous American history presented from a tendentious leftist viewpoint. While Duberman may criticize some of Zinn’s writing as simplistic, one-sided or impractical, he clearly has no interest in challenging its fundamental political underpinnings.

Recommended for readers already smitten with Zinn.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59558-678-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 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...

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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