THE OLD NEIGHBORHOOD

WHAT WE LOST IN THE GREAT SUBURBAN MIGRATION, 1966--1999

A fairly sophisticated description of the problem of urban flight from America’s largest cities over the last three decades. Suarez, noted radio journalist and host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation, is interested in providing what he terms a “dry-eyed” reevaluation of the suburban migration that has left our cities in their relatively impoverished condition today. Deftly juxtaposing statistical analysis, government reports, and personal oral narratives, he retells the story of urban flight to include the more malignant aspects of the phenomenon, which are often downplayed in accounts of how our older cities got into the “mess” we perceive them to be in. He foregrounds race as one of the primary factors in the migration by noting that the fastest-growing urban areas are precisely those which are becoming the whitest. He also views the unwillingness of many churches to take a more active role in saving neighborhoods, and the union-busting potential of relocating urban industrial activities to the suburbs, as contributors to the population drain from our largest cities. Many efforts at reform seem to exacerbate the situation—property tax abatements to draw young professionals into urban residential neighborhoods may impoverish local public schools, for example. Complicity between insurance companies, mortgage bankers, and investment firms to avoid doing business in minority neighborhoods also frustrates efforts at revitalization. Conversion of public housing projects into smaller, lower-impact, more widely dispersed units seems to be one of the few feasible alternatives to help ameliorate the situation. While Suarez bemoans the homogeneous suburban sprawl that has resulted from the migration and its tendency to isolate its inhabitants in an automobile culture, he doesn—t really offer useful suggestions for facilitating a return to the coherence and stability of the postwar urban residential community. Well done, but it’s a shame Suarez doesn’t match his narrative of loss with potential scenarios for recuperation.

Pub Date: May 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-83402-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1999

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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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