MAKING MALCOLM

THE MYTH AND MEANING OF MALCOLM X

An intriguing but uneven essay on the enduring influence and image of Malcolm X, by the author of Reflecting Black (not reviewed). Dyson (Communications Studies/Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) prefaces his book with an arresting anecdote about leading a Malcolm X seminar at Brown University, where he publicly scolded black male students who imposed a ``racial litmus test'' to claim for themselves exclusive rights to Malcom's legacy (i.e., ``because I'm black, poor, male and angry, I understand him better than you''). Had Dyson drawn more frequently on classroom experiences, this book might have been energized. He first briefly sketches Malcolm's life and thought (avoiding lionization by noting his harsh attitudes toward women) and the complexity of his political evolution away from the Nation of Islam and black nationalism. Next comes a long assessment of the ``uncritical celebration and vicious criticism'' that mark so many books on Malcolm; Dyson identifies ``four Malcolms'' that emerge from these assessments: hero/saint; public moralist; victim and vehicle of psychohistorical forces; and revolutionary socialist. He then analyzes Malcolm's role in the resurgence of black nationalism, noting that his defiance has been adopted by rappers and other disaffected black youth. However, while calling for a ``new progressive black politics,'' Dyson doesn't analyze the role of the Nation of Islam or of black leaders like the Rev. Al Sharpton on the contemporary black political scene. His next chapter, on masculinity in 1990s black film, strays somewhat from his subject; more interesting is his take on Spike Lee's Malcolm X, which Dyson considers hagiographic but also ``often impressive...richly textured and subtly nuanced.'' The book concludes with a heartfelt meditation on how to make the best use of Malcolm's legacy. Dyson calls for a more complex debate on the state of black males, suggesting that Malcolm's message of self- discipline and self-love might be redemptive. Not as rich as Joe Wood's collection, Malcolm X: In Our Own Image (not reviewed), but useful for serious students.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-19-509235-X

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1994

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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