A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.

THE HISTORIC UNFULFILLED PROMISE

A collection of essays by American Left icon Zinn (The Bomb, 2010, etc.) originally published in the political journal The Progressive.

“What kind of country do we want to live in?” asks the author in these essays dating mostly from the last years of his life, and thus following the historic arc from 9/11 to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the election of Obama. As always, he responds to this question with a radical’s zeal, a historian’s insights and an activist’s optimism. War is on his mind. As the “war on terror” commenced, he railed against what he perceived to be the assault on American liberties this war had allowed. As the invasion of Iraq loomed, he warned against the countless lives that would be lost or ruined. As victory was declared in Iraq, Zinn was there to point out the horror of destroyed innocent lives and the chaos left behind. But the larger issue was war itself: “The abolition of war has become not only desirable but absolutely necessary if the planet is to be saved. It is an idea whose time has come.” On the whole, this is not Zinn at his best, as these are, after all, polemical articles meant perhaps more to arouse the converted rather than enlighten the uninitiated. There is also a certain degree of repetition of themes and phrases, as will happen with any collection of articles not originally meant to be read together. Certainly, many readers will not appreciate his message, but the spirit and passion of the messenger, an American original, cannot be denied.

A useful introduction to one of America’s great scholar-activists.

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-87286-555-6

Page Count: 184

Publisher: City Lights

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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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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