This angst-ridden compilation of essays reviews the last 30 years of intellectual cogitation about relations between blacks and Jews. Berman (editor of Debating PC, not reviewed) has selected 19 essays by well-known black and Jewish writers to create an essential ``literature'' of this ongoing dialogue. Divided into four rather vaguely titled sections (``Several Controversies,'' ``Philosophical Observations,'' etc.), the collection focuses on the social history of interrelations between black anti-Semitism and Jewish racism in America. While a half-dozen pieces here are new, many are classics in the field, such as James Baldwin's 1967 essay ``Negroes Are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White'' and Norman Podhoretz's 1963 article, ``My Negro Problem—and Ours.'' Other notable contributors include Cynthia Ozick, Cornel West, Henry Louis Gates Jr., Leon Wieseltier, bell hooks, and Shelby Steele. Among the most common subjects are: the ``golden days'' of black-Jewish cooperation during the civil rights era; the effect of white flight on urban black communities; the growing economic schism between blacks and Jews; black sympathy for Palestinians under Israeli rule; the Crown Heights riots of 1991; and frequent anti-Semitic remarks made by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. While each essay on its own is certainly valuable, the collection does not add up to more than the sum of its parts; Berman neglects to draw any conclusions from the black-Jewish debate. Two of the volume's original pieces, however, stand out. Joe Woods's ``The Problem Negro and Other Tales,'' a spicy critique of Podhoretz's insecurity about his own Jewishness, is a welcome exception to the generally analytical tone, and Julius Lester, in ``The Lives People Live,'' is the only author to outline a constructive course of action to resolve current problems plaguing black-Jewish relations. A worthwhile addition to the reference shelf of volumes that debate contentious ethnic issues but proffer no solutions.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-385-31117-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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...


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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