A readable and nondogmatic book that will appeal to young people especially as a way to rethink conventional history.

TRUTH HAS A POWER OF ITS OWN

CONVERSATIONS ABOUT A PEOPLE’S HISTORY

A transcription of a long 2007 conversation between Zinn (1922-2010) and then–PBS NewsHour national correspondent Suarez (Latino Americans: The 500-Year Legacy That Shaped a Nation, 2013, etc.), now co-host of World Affairs.

Their conversation is free-wheeling and illuminating, though readers of Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States (1980) will be familiar with his overriding emphasis on what has not been taught in U.S. history textbooks—namely, the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans and the undercurrents of class conflict between the haves and have-nots. This work is divided into three parts that correspond roughly with the American timeline: “Change the Story,” or the gritty, shameful history of the country’s founding by genocide, slavery, and an ingrained class struggle that Zinn claims was “the backdrop to the framing of the Constitution in 1787”; “They Rebelled,” chronicling the movements of popular dissent and protest that arose especially in the 19th century (e.g., the Lowell Mill strikes, the abolition movement, and agrarian radicalism); and “They Began to Organize,” which follows movements that grew in response to inequities, such as the Bonus March of veterans; the grassroots farmers movement; the civil rights, women’s, and Indian movements; and the struggles of the LGBTQ community. Zinn is keen to underscore the asymmetry of power and economics and how the poor and powerless often turn against each other rather than their oppressors. He is constantly turning a subject over to look at it a different way, such as the causes of war and “the job of selling the war to the American people.” Throughout, Suarez proves to be a capable interviewer, asking solid, specific questions and demonstrating his handle of the many subjects discussed.

A readable and nondogmatic book that will appeal to young people especially as a way to rethink conventional history.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62097-517-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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