COMING OF AGE

THE STORY OF OUR CENTURY BY THOSE WHO'VE LIVED IT

Chicago radio legend and oral historian Terkel (Race, 1992, etc.), himself an active octogenarian, leads a chorus of 68 senior citizens who vow not to go gentle into that good night. The leitmotif of this work is sounded in the inaugural interview by environmentalist David Brower, founder of the Friends of the Earth: "The older you are, the freer you are, as long as you last." The accent, as in Terkers Working (1974), is on careers rather than personal lives. For his subjects, who range in age from 70 to 99, Terkel, an unreconstructed liberal, chose mostly kindred rebel spirits: e.g., John Kenneth Galbraith, Congressman Henry Gonzalez (D-Tex.), labor leader Victor Reuther, self-proclaimed "secular humanist" columnist Betty McCollister, and pioneering gay liberationist Harry Hay. Only one respondent, an 82-year-old stockbroker, counters his implicit portrait of risk-taking seniors when she notes of their investment proclivities, "Older people are . . . less interested in taking chances." These men and women are eyewitnesses to the social tumult of this century: civil-rights struggles, environmental catastrophe, war, poverty, the corporate jungle, sexual revolution, and McCarthyism. Many focus on youthful struggles, like Genora Johnson Dollinger, who recalls how, as a fiery 23-year-old, she mounted a union sound truck during the 1937 Flint sit-down strike against GM. Others discuss continuing the good fight even to this day, such as Millie Beck, who takes on doctors and HMOs for their shoddy treatment of the elderly, and Joe Begley, a 75-year-old Kentucky storekeeper and strip-mining opponent who pledges, "The last flicker of my life will be against something that I don't think ought to be." Common concerns here include the role of technology in modern society, the historical amnesia and scary future of the young, ethnic and class divisions that many attribute to the Reagan-Bush administrations, and, inevitably, the toll that age has taken on their health. These interviews pay stirring tribute to "living repositories of our past, our history.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-56584-284-7

Page Count: 496

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1995

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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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