An impressively long-term, diligent sociological study, despite occasionally longwinded prose.

WHEN A HEART TURNS ROCK SOLID

THE LIVES OF THREE PUERTO RICAN BROTHERS ON AND OFF THE STREETS

A sociologist examines the lives of marginalized Puerto Rican youths in Springfield, Mass., connecting their stories to the economic, cultural and political factors that shaped them.

Black (Sociology/Univ. of Hartford) met the Rivera brothers—Fausto, Sammy and Julio (all pseudonyms)—in 1990 and followed them for 18 years. Besides the brothers, the author also includes their parents, their partners and children and men in their neighborhood, many of them drug dealers. Black builds a picture of marginalization, racism and poverty. Economic statistics, tables and maps provide background, and generous excerpts from his taped interviews provide color. The author delves into how these youths fared in school, revealing both their personal failures and the flaws in the bilingual education system that led to their giving up and dropping out. Springfield was then the center of the drug trade for western Massachusetts, and Sammy was the first of the Rivera brothers to become involved in it. Fausto’s life took the common path from school to the street to prison, where he spent seven years. Both men became hooked on drugs. Julio, however, left the gang life to become a truck driver, and with a working wife was able to buy a house and edge upward toward the middle class. Black’s close relationship to the boys often entailed mentoring, urging them to complete their schooling, helping them with documents, appearing for them in court, visiting them in prison and getting them into rehab. The author’s clear portraits of his subjects, his empathy for them, his pride in being accepted and even sometimes protected by them and his anger about the institutions and policies that have shaped their world give an immediate, powerful human dimension to their stories.

An impressively long-term, diligent sociological study, despite occasionally longwinded prose.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-307-37774-6

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2009

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A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

AN INDIGENOUS PEOPLES' HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

Custer died for your sins. And so, this book would seem to suggest, did every other native victim of colonialism.

Inducing guilt in non-native readers would seem to be the guiding idea behind Dunbar-Ortiz’s (Emerita, Ethnic Studies/California State Univ., Hayward; Blood on the Border: A Memoir of the Contra War, 2005, etc.) survey, which is hardly a new strategy. Indeed, the author says little that hasn’t been said before, but she packs a trove of ideological assumptions into nearly every page. For one thing, while “Indian” isn’t bad, since “[i]ndigenous individuals and peoples in North America on the whole do not consider ‘Indian’ a slur,” “American” is due to the fact that it’s “blatantly imperialistic.” Just so, indigenous peoples were overwhelmed by a “colonialist settler-state” (the very language broadly applied to Israelis vis-à-vis the Palestinians today) and then “displaced to fragmented reservations and economically decimated”—after, that is, having been forced to live in “concentration camps.” Were he around today, Vine Deloria Jr., the always-indignant champion of bias-puncturing in defense of native history, would disavow such tidily packaged, ready-made, reflexive language. As it is, the readers who are likely to come to this book—undergraduates, mostly, in survey courses—probably won’t question Dunbar-Ortiz’s inaccurate assertion that the military phrase “in country” derives from the military phrase “Indian country” or her insistence that all Spanish people in the New World were “gold-obsessed.” Furthermore, most readers won’t likely know that some Ancestral Pueblo (for whom Dunbar-Ortiz uses the long-abandoned term “Anasazi”) sites show evidence of cannibalism and torture, which in turn points to the inconvenient fact that North America wasn’t entirely an Eden before the arrival of Europe.

A Churchill-ian view of native history—Ward, that is, not Winston—its facts filtered through a dense screen of ideology.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8070-0040-3

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Beacon Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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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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