Howard Zinn, 1922-2010

howard-zinn.jpgIt was just a little over a month ago that I encouraged you to watch The People Speak, a series of performances based on historical documents that had been collected by Howard Zinn in Voices of a People’s History of the United States. As I was finishing up work today, I was saddened to hear that Zinn died of a heart attack earlier; I had been inspired by many of his books, but most especially his memoir You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train because, when I read it in my late 20s, it was a testament of living true to one’s values that told me exactly what I needed to hear at the time I read it.

Zinn’s version of American history is not the polite version most of us were taught growing up; on the other hand, because he was relentless in championing alternative perspectives, that version has become more commonly known. If you haven’t read A People’s History of the United States yet, I highly recommend it—if you don’t wind up agreeing with Zinn, he should at the very least drive you to question your assumptions.

27 January 2010 | obituaries |

Chris Cleave: “I Was Brought Up to Believe Asylum Seekers Were Heroes”

Last March, when British novelist Chris Cleave came to the States to promote the hardcover edition of his second novel, Little Bee, I was fortunate enough to meet him at a luncheon reception for attorneys at Paul, Weiss, a Manhattan law firm that prides itself on its pro bono work for those who come to this nation seeking political asylum—an important theme in the novel, which follows a young Nigerian woman as she escapes from a British detention center where she’s been awaiting likely deportation. The novel takes a complex issue and boils it down to its human and emotional essence; it’s an overt work of political advocacy that emphasizes drama over didactics, and one that you won’t easily forget. And now it’s out in paperback, so your last excuse to have not read it by now has vanished.

In the video clip above, Cleave told me about how the writing of the novel was intertwined with his political consciousness, each informing the other; just before that, we’d discussed his discovery of Little Bee’s voice.

23 January 2010 | interviews |

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