GREAT DIVIDE by Studs Terkel

GREAT DIVIDE

KIRKUS REVIEW

Terkel returns once again to his "oral history" format to investigate what he describes as "the deepening chasm [in today's American society] between the haves--and have-somewhats--and the have-nots." According to the author, the past decade has seen changes that have separated vast segments of that society and have even "cut off past from present." In examining this recent history, Terkel enlists the testimonies of farmers, politicians, antinuke activists, members of the Sanctuary Movement, academics, religious Fundamentalists, Wall Street fast-lane types, and the occasional dropout. Breaking the subject down into such headings as "School Days," "Family Farmer," "God," "Neighbors," Terkel compares and contrasts attitudes toward life in the US today. As can be expected, the contributions vary: some are nearly inarticulate, others a grabbag of accepted "truths" (i.e., cliche's). Many, however, are perceptive and, in the most compelling of them, deeply moving. Take, for example, the story told by Jean Gump, a grandmother, mother of 12, delegate to the 1972 Democratic Convention, and, most importantly, a member of the disarmament group Silo Plowshares. Mrs. Gump was arrested on Good Friday 1986 for infiltrating a missile site and disfiguring a Minute Mare silo. She tells her story with a palpable sense of commitment and occasional flashes of no-nonsense humor; for her act of dissent, she was sentenced to six years at a federal penitentiary. Nearly as engrossing are the reminiscences of a flight attendant whose pilot husband crosses the picket line in which his wife protests company policies. Like previous Terkel surveys, this leaves a great deal of chaff with the sociological wheat--but, because of the urgency and immediacy of its theme, it's one of the author's most successful offerings since The Good War.
Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1988
ISBN: 0517059959
Publisher: Pantheon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1988




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