As always, Solnit is eloquent and sharply insightful.

THE MOTHER OF ALL QUESTIONS

FURTHER REPORTS FROM THE FEMINIST REVOLUTIONS

A distinguished cultural critic tackles “the binaries and boundaries of gender” while examining the continuing evolution of feminism.

In her latest collection, Harper’s contributing editor Solnit (Men Explain Things to Me, 2014, etc.) examines how women continue to struggle to make their voices heard in a violent, misogynist world. In the first section, the author deals with the act of silencing. Whether in professional situations involving unfair treatment or personal ones involving abuse or rape, patriarchal culture has discouraged women from speaking out against gender injustice. At the same time, men have also been forced into silence about their interior lives in exchange for “power and membership” in patriarchy. Yet women—and men—continue to make progress. Solnit points to the changes in attitude toward rape and how comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Schumer have openly challenged perpetrators. They have not succeeded in winning the war “for everyone to have their basic human rights respected,” but they have helped turn the tide against acceptance of rape culture. Moreover, social initiatives like the Obama administration's 2014 “It’s On Us” project to “get bystanders, particularly men,” to protect potential victims of assault are positive signs of further change. In the second section of the book, the author focuses more on language used in discourse about women, which not only emphasizes dependency, but also overlooks how the concept of gender is built upon categories that exclude differences that transcend the male/female binary. She also offers commentary on how culturally iconic works—e.g., Lolita—continue to feed into ideas of women as “disposable…absent, or worthless.” Others, like the 1956 film Giant, can be read to suggest that patriarchy can successfully be replaced by “some kind of open, negotiated reshuffling of everything.” Trenchant and hopeful, the book reveals that the ongoing work of righting the wrongs of patriarchy is only part of a much larger project of social justice for all people.

As always, Solnit is eloquent and sharply insightful.

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-60846-740-2

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Haymarket

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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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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