An intelligent and sympathetic reappraisal of the political upheavals of the ’60s and ’70s.

BY THE LIGHT OF BURNING DREAMS

THE TRIUMPHS AND TRAGEDIES OF THE SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION

Salon founder David Talbot and New Yorker writer Margaret Talbot offer admiring portraits of radical activists who sparked enduring social changes.

Through sharp reporting and good storytelling, the authors enliven a journalistic genre that in less skilled hands might have gone flat: the “Where are they now?” story. They devote a chapter to each of seven flashpoints of the 1960s and ’70s that created “the second American Revolution.” These include Black Power, gay pride, the anti-war movement, the siege of Wounded Knee, the battle for abortion rights, the rise of the United Farm Workers, and the “celebrity activism” embodied by John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The authors show how and why each movement unfolded, focusing on key figures like Bobby Seale and Dolores Huerta and describing their subjects’ early activism as well as their later lives. They aim partly to enlighten students, such as those who, a professor lamented, know the Panthers “only by their cool regalia…the black leather coats, the berets, the dark glasses.” But an abundance of fresh material gives this book an intergenerational appeal. In their portrait of the feminist abortion clinic the Jane Collective, the authors note that before Roe v. Wade, one doctor who did abortions took startling safety precautions: “An assistant picked the women up on street corners, blindfolded them, and brought them to undisclosed locations.” The authors also vividly portray events such as Cesar Chavez’s trailblazing efforts to organize grape pickers, Craig Rodwell’s quest to open America’s first gay and lesbian bookstore, and the Ojibwe leader Dennis Banks’ bold escape from Wounded Knee as federal officials swept up Native resisters. Some readers may fault a few of the choices—particularly that of Lennon rather than Bob Dylan as the main representative of “protest songs”—but even the dissenters may appreciate that the authors avoid Allan Bloom–style crankiness in recalling the ’60s and evoke the ’70s without using the word disco.

An intelligent and sympathetic reappraisal of the political upheavals of the ’60s and ’70s.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-282039-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

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A PROMISED LAND

In the first volume of his presidential memoir, Obama recounts the hard path to the White House.

In this long, often surprisingly candid narrative, Obama depicts a callow youth spent playing basketball and “getting loaded,” his early reading of difficult authors serving as a way to impress coed classmates. (“As a strategy for picking up girls, my pseudo-intellectualism proved mostly worthless,” he admits.) Yet seriousness did come to him in time and, with it, the conviction that America could live up to its stated aspirations. His early political role as an Illinois state senator, itself an unlikely victory, was not big enough to contain Obama’s early ambition, nor was his term as U.S. Senator. Only the presidency would do, a path he painstakingly carved out, vote by vote and speech by careful speech. As he writes, “By nature I’m a deliberate speaker, which, by the standards of presidential candidates, helped keep my gaffe quotient relatively low.” The author speaks freely about the many obstacles of the race—not just the question of race and racism itself, but also the rise, with “potent disruptor” Sarah Palin, of a know-nothingism that would manifest itself in an obdurate, ideologically driven Republican legislature. Not to mention the meddlings of Donald Trump, who turns up in this volume for his idiotic “birther” campaign while simultaneously fishing for a contract to build “a beautiful ballroom” on the White House lawn. A born moderate, Obama allows that he might not have been ideological enough in the face of Mitch McConnell, whose primary concern was then “clawing [his] way back to power.” Indeed, one of the most compelling aspects of the book, as smoothly written as his previous books, is Obama’s cleareyed scene-setting for how the political landscape would become so fractured—surely a topic he’ll expand on in the next volume.

A top-notch political memoir and serious exercise in practical politics for every reader.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6316-9

Page Count: 768

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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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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