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You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A Personal History of Our Times (1994)

af Howard Zinn

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6311627,435 (4.12)18
Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States,tells his personal stories about more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from teaching at Spelman College to recent protests against war. A former bombardier in WWII, Zinn emerged in the civil rights movement as a powerful voice for justice. Although he's a fierce critic, he gives us reason to hope that by learning from history and engaging politically, we can make a difference in the world.… (mere)

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Howard Zinn was an amazing person. I was very lucky to get to hear him speak a few times, back when I still lived in Boston, a couple years before he died.

I've read a lot of Zinn, but had never gotten around to this, which is a brief memoir of his times in the civil rights and anti-war movements in the 1960s and 1970s. This book was great, but if you've read a lot of Zinn, you've probably read all of this in bits and pieces in his other work. That said, it was nice to read after many years since I've read anything he's written. ( )
  lemontwist | Oct 30, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received an advanced review copy of this book through the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.

This book serves as an autobiography of the historian and activist Howard Zinn, and intersects with America's history of inequality and imperialism, as well as the work of activists towards justice and equality. Zinn grew up poor in Brooklyn and worked at the Brooklyn Naval Yard where he formed bonds with the other laborers. He signed up with the Army Air Force during World War II in order to fight fascism, but was also exposed to segregation in the armed forces and participated in a napalm bombing raid in France that he felt was more of a show of American military might than a strategical necessity. Zinn began his academic career at Spellman College in Atlanta in 1956 where he served as a mentor to Alice Walker and Marian Wright Edelman. He also became involved in the Civil Rights Movement, serving as an adviser to the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Zinn was fired for insubordination in 1963, and accepted a professorship at Boston University in 1964. Zinn's arrival BU coincided with the movement against the war in Vietnam of which he became an active leader. Zinn's courses were extremely popular but he also had to contend with prickly and conservative BU president, John Silber.Despite the dominance of inequality and opression in the world, Zinn remains optomistic. He sees the changes made in people in the various movements as a net positive. He notes that while tyranny is a danger in a short term it also will be defeated by the people in the long term. ( )
1 stem Othemts | Mar 26, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I didn’t know much about Howard Zinn going into this book, other than he wrote The People’s History of the United States (which has been sitting on my shelves, unread, for years) and that his political views, like mine, are left of center, and by a fair amount.

So it was quite a surprise to read this extremely interesting, quick-moving, and most of all, inspiring, autobiography. Written in 2002, eight years before his death, Zinn uses 15 chapters to tell stories of his life - from growing up poor during the depression to hard-working parents, to teaching at a historically black college and helping students find their voices in the culture rights movement, to protesting the Vietnam war and his time as a bombardier in World War II and how it shaped his future views on war. Any one of these topics could make for a good book - that Zinn covers them all rather concisely and as part of an overall background to a life of civil disobedience makes for a great, compelling book.

After the 2016 presidential elections and the changes which followed, many on the left became discouraged and even somewhat depressed. This is the book those people - print company included - needed to read. As gripping of an autobiography this is, the bigger takeaway and a point that Zinn drives home repeatedly is that in even against tremendous odds, it is important to stand for what you believe in and protest as needed. In fact, failed attempts at resistance are important to bring likeminded individuals together and to further strengthen their beliefs. It tells the reader that standing up for what’s right is important and that individual voices are important, as eventually those voices form a group and that group can institute major change. I started the book thinking I was glad Zinn wasn’t around to see our current political environment, but finished wishing he was. He would have been thrilled to see Black Lives Matter, Indivisible, Action for a Better Tomorrow and the #MeToo movement. This book is a great starting point for those who are upset about the world, are unsure if their voice will make a difference and have no idea where to start. ( )
  TimV57 | Feb 9, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a fine reprint of Howard Zinn’s memoir published in 1994. The book explains Zinn’s life of teaching and activism in the clear and engaging prose for which he is known. While this reprint has a new introduction by Professor Keeanga-Tamahtta Taylor of Princeton, I felt that it did not add much to the book. ( )
  morningrob | Feb 4, 2019 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is the third publication of this memoir. The first coming in 1994, the second in 2002 and now a third edition in 2018. This most recent publication is introduced by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor. an assistant profess0r at Princeton. This is not, in any manner, a typical memoir where lifetime efforts and awards are on display. It is a history of activism in the second half of the 20ieth century. Although we do learn about is time in WWII as a bombardier and growing up in Brooklyn, it is the state of democracy and the means of how democratic practices can lead the nation towards greater equality and social justice. It is also essentially a hopeful account as to how citizens can act to restore democracy in troubled times. ( )
  Wisconco | Jan 2, 2019 |
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Howard Zinn, author of A People's History of the United States,tells his personal stories about more than thirty years of fighting for social change, from teaching at Spelman College to recent protests against war. A former bombardier in WWII, Zinn emerged in the civil rights movement as a powerful voice for justice. Although he's a fierce critic, he gives us reason to hope that by learning from history and engaging politically, we can make a difference in the world.

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