A welcome study of an aspect of wartime history that is little known among those too young to have experienced it.




Social history of the American homefront in the early months of World War II, a time of profound uncertainty and anxiety.

As Klingaman (The First Century: Emperors, Gods and Everyman, 2008, etc.) observes at the beginning of his vigorous narrative, the Christmas season of 1941 opened with considerable promise. The Great Depression had lifted, expanded defense spending had created a thriving job market, and “fur coats seemed to be everywhere.” There were warning signs, including a silk shortage caused by uneasiness over events in Asia, and war had been raging in Europe for more than two years, but Americans tended to ignore those events and to advocate staying out of the war. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed all that, provoking a military response and domestic measures that would themselves become infamous, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans. The author is good at teasing out small but telling details—e.g., the fact that college enrollments, not high to begin with ("the number of adults without even one year of formal education nearly equaled the number of college graduates”) dropped dramatically because of the draft and the ever expanding armaments industry, which demanded workers. He also delivers entertaining anecdotes along the way, such as a unit of Confederate veterans, all over 90 years old, declaring war on Japan even as inmates of San Quentin requested knitting lessons so that they could make sweaters and hats for soldiers. Yet Klingaman’s narrative is marked by dark moments and the birth of trends, some of which persist today, such as the militarization of society and a rightward turn in politics, evidenced by such things as popular support for drafting any defense worker who went on strike for better pay or working conditions—to say nothing of racist incidents against African-Americans who had moved north and west to seek such jobs.

A welcome study of an aspect of wartime history that is little known among those too young to have experienced it.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-13317-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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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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