Review by Booklist Review
In the 1990s, socialist historian Zinn was interviewed for six programs broadcast on "alternative" radio stations. To the extent these interviews have a theme, it's "Where has all the class-consciousness gone?" Zinn advances anecdotes about his students to buttress his optimism that class identity isn't dead, and that youth aren't uniformly seduced by the profit motive he excoriates. Elsewhere, the sympathetic interviewer elicited details about Zinn such as why he became a radical (getting knocked unconscious by mounted police during a 1939 communist demonstration), and why he, a World War II bombardier, turned antimilitary. The life-story factoids weave among the traffic cones of Zinn's criticisms about U.S. history and historians. The Zinn Reader (1997) furnishes the interviewer's concluding points, ranging from Marxism to, irony of ironies, how media capitalist Rupert Murdoch's Fox TV might turn Zinn's most popular work, A People's History of the United States (1980), into a documentary series. Libraries have (or should have) that book; where it circulates well these interviews will be well placed. Gilbert Taylor
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Kirkus Book Review
Here, in a series of scattershot interviews from 1989 to 1999 with Alternative Radio founder Barsamian, radical ``peoples' historian'' Zinn (professor emeritus at aBoston Univ.; Marx in Soho, p. 291 ; etc.) does his best to show that the relentless dialectic of history has survived the collapse of the Soviet Union. It's not hard to detect the common thread in these random talks about everything from the poetry of Langston Hughes to the glory days of the Brooklyn Dodgers'Zinn's political radicalism and his passionately humane critiques of our competitive, profit-driven culture inform all of these intimate conversations. A New York City street kid whose radicalism was born in reaction to the poverty and powerlessness of his upbringing, Zinn grew up to become a Brooklyn Navy Yard worker, a WWII bombardier, and a graduate student. It was as a teacher at all-black Spelman College in Georgia, however, that the turmoil and triumph of the civil rights movement transformed both his politics and his scholarship. Active in the antiwar movement and other progressive causes, Zinn also championed the telling of the history of ordinary people. Under the prodding of Barsamian's sympathetic questioning, Zinn earnestly and with wry wit asserts his views on subjects from the death penalty to the globalization of the economy, the state of the theater, McCarthyism, the radicalism of Fiorello, LaGuardia, and the rise and fall of the Soviet Union. Scorning the notion that historians can be ``objective'''the very selection of facts, Zinn tells Barsamian, revels the historian's bias'Zinn boldly reinterprets American history from the landings of Columbus, whom Zinn presents as a genocidal criminal, to Vietnam War'era America. While many will be unable to swallow Zinn's enthusiastic Marxism, his humanity, honesty, and compassionate perspectives on our often brutal history and culture, and his dry humor, make these interviews thoughtful and compelling.
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