THE RISE OF THE UNMELTABLE ETHNICS by Michael Novak

THE RISE OF THE UNMELTABLE ETHNICS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A somewhat disordered and impressionistic but sensitive exploration of the values, grievances, and prejudices of "the ethnics" which combines a plea for the politics of cultural pluralism (cities of 100,000 including "real Chinatowns," "little Italys" and "three or four Warsaws") with an imaginative assault on the presumptions of WASP "superculture." Drawing on autobiography (he's a Catholic of Slovak extraction) and literature as well as recent studies of blue-collar discontent, Novak lashes out at Left-liberal university-based professional elites who have embraced black militancy while abandoning the PIGS (Poles, Italians, Greeks, Slavs) to the ministrations of nativist reactionaries from Wallace to Nixon. Although he fails to distinguish between specific ethnic resentments and more pervasive -- and above all, economic -- working-class malaise, his insistence on the priority of "moral, communal issues of identity and value" complements such recent studies as the Sextons' Blue-Collars and Hard Hats (1971) and Howe's The White Majority (1970). Novak is at his best when Sealing with the subtleties of Anglo-Saxon xenophobia peering down its blue-blooded nose at the "coarseness" of swarthy immigrants while branding ethnicity a regressive, dysfunctional vestige in the American mainstream. "Concerning work, guilt, reason, sex, family, violence, the irrational, tragedy, the future, hope, piety, sacrifice, pain, ethnics do not all think or feel as WASPs think or feel," says Novak, pointing to (and sometimes romanticizing) the harshness of the immigrant experience and their general exclusion from affluence. The occasional slapdash generalization (e.g., "in general the Catholic soul finds it difficult to value success") must be taken with salt but overall this is a well-argued and perceptive history of the American experience -- unWASPed.
Pub Date: April 20th, 1972
ISBN: 0025907808
Publisher: Macmillan
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1972




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