An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast.

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THE FIRE IS UPON US

JAMES BALDWIN, WILLIAM F. BUCKLEY JR., AND THE DEBATE OVER RACE IN AMERICA

A study of two acclaimed American thinkers on opposite sides of the political spectrum that underscores the enormous race and class divisions in 1960s America, many of which still exist today.

Buccola (Political Science/Linfield Coll.; The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass, 2012, etc.) grounds this engaging comparison between James Baldwin, “second in international prominence only to Martin Luther King Jr. as the voice of the black freedom struggle,” and prominent conservative William F. Buckley in a debate between the two held at the Cambridge Union on Feb. 18, 1965. Taking up the agreed-upon topic of “The American Dream is at the expense of the American Negro,” Baldwin addressed the packed audience “in the position of a kind of Jeremiah” (as a child, he was steeped in biblical teachings from the pulpits of Harlem storefront churches). He poured forth the litany of demoralization that African Americans suffer under white supremacy. It was a powerful, moving speech, and Buckley countered it by scolding Baldwin for “flogging ‘our civilization’ ” and appealing to the audience on the importance of keeping “the rule of law” and “faith of our fathers.” By a 3-1 margin, the youthful audience favored Baldwin’s speech. Yet Buccola builds his well-rendered narrative by offering alternating looks at how the two American intellectuals and writers developed their arguments up to that point. Indeed, both were deeply imprinted by their different upbringings. Throughout his entire life, Baldwin wrote about the Harlem “ghetto” of economic distress and the “moral lives of those trapped within [it].” Buckley, who hailed from a wealthy Connecticut family and attended a prep school and Yale, where he was a member of Skull and Bones, stuck to the dogma, inherited from his father, of “devout Catholicism, antidemocratic individualism, hostility to collectivism in economics, and a strong devotion to hierarchy—including racial hierarchy—in the social sphere.”

An elucidating work that makes effective use of comparison and contrast.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-691-18154-7

Page Count: 440

Publisher: Princeton Univ.

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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