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Je peux comprendre que ma vision de ce monde brutal et injuste puisse sembler absurdement euphorique. Mais pour moi, ce qu'on disqualifie d'idéalisme romantique ou du vœu pieux se justifie quand cela débouche sur des actes susceptibles de réaliser ces vœux, de donner vie à ces idéaux. La volonté d'entreprendre de tels actes ne peut se fonder sur des certitudes mais sur les Je peux comprendre que ma vision de ce monde brutal et injuste puisse sembler absurdement euphorique. Mais pour moi, ce qu'on disqualifie d'idéalisme romantique ou du vœu pieux se justifie quand cela débouche sur des actes susceptibles de réaliser ces vœux, de donner vie à ces idéaux. La volonté d'entreprendre de tels actes ne peut se fonder sur des certitudes mais sur les possibilités entrevues au travers d'une lecture de l'histoire qui diffère de la douloureuse énumération habituelle des cruautés humaines. Car l'histoire est pleine de ces moments où, contre toute attente, les gens se sont battus ensemble pour plus de justice et de liberté, et l'ont finalement emporté - pas assez souvent certes, mais suffisamment pour prouver qu'on pourrait faire bien plus. Les acteurs de ces luttes en faveur de la justice sont les êtres humains qui, ne serait-ce qu'un bref moment et même rongés par la peur, osent faire quelque chose. Et ma vie fut pleine de ces individus, ordinaires et extraordinaires, dont la seule existence m'a donné espoir.


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Je peux comprendre que ma vision de ce monde brutal et injuste puisse sembler absurdement euphorique. Mais pour moi, ce qu'on disqualifie d'idéalisme romantique ou du vœu pieux se justifie quand cela débouche sur des actes susceptibles de réaliser ces vœux, de donner vie à ces idéaux. La volonté d'entreprendre de tels actes ne peut se fonder sur des certitudes mais sur les Je peux comprendre que ma vision de ce monde brutal et injuste puisse sembler absurdement euphorique. Mais pour moi, ce qu'on disqualifie d'idéalisme romantique ou du vœu pieux se justifie quand cela débouche sur des actes susceptibles de réaliser ces vœux, de donner vie à ces idéaux. La volonté d'entreprendre de tels actes ne peut se fonder sur des certitudes mais sur les possibilités entrevues au travers d'une lecture de l'histoire qui diffère de la douloureuse énumération habituelle des cruautés humaines. Car l'histoire est pleine de ces moments où, contre toute attente, les gens se sont battus ensemble pour plus de justice et de liberté, et l'ont finalement emporté - pas assez souvent certes, mais suffisamment pour prouver qu'on pourrait faire bien plus. Les acteurs de ces luttes en faveur de la justice sont les êtres humains qui, ne serait-ce qu'un bref moment et même rongés par la peur, osent faire quelque chose. Et ma vie fut pleine de ces individus, ordinaires et extraordinaires, dont la seule existence m'a donné espoir.

30 review for L'impossible neutralité - Autobiographie d'un historien et militant

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nomy

    this was the book that politicized my mom when she was in her forties. i had been a rebellious, critical kid for many years, and she had been a busy, tired middle school teacher and mom. she read this book and got all excited, she made my brother, who was in high school, read it too and discuss it with her. she went on to start teaching from "a people's history," started going to anti-racist activist gatherings and workshops, organizing diversity trainings for her school, housing this was the book that politicized my mom when she was in her forties. i had been a rebellious, critical kid for many years, and she had been a busy, tired middle school teacher and mom. she read this book and got all excited, she made my brother, who was in high school, read it too and discuss it with her. she went on to start teaching from "a people's history," started going to anti-racist activist gatherings and workshops, organizing diversity trainings for her school, housing books-to-prisoners in her basement, and otherwise just trying to be an active participant in the world that she wants to see created. hurray for howard zinn.

  2. 4 out of 5

    shaw

    Before I really knew anything about Zinn other than that he wrote A People's History, he and Noam Chomsky always blurred in my ignorant mind -- anti-war, activists, teachers, white men from the Northeast. It was easy for me to forget how Zinn worked alongside the likes of Ella Baker, James Baldwin, MLK, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Stokley Carmichael and was a teacher to Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, and countless others. A humble man. . . it's amazing to see how much he has done, shared, and Before I really knew anything about Zinn other than that he wrote A People's History, he and Noam Chomsky always blurred in my ignorant mind -- anti-war, activists, teachers, white men from the Northeast. It was easy for me to forget how Zinn worked alongside the likes of Ella Baker, James Baldwin, MLK, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Stokley Carmichael and was a teacher to Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, and countless others. A humble man. . . it's amazing to see how much he has done, shared, and contributed over the years. Easily one of my favorite books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John Gonzalez

    It's been years since I had read this book and it is shameful that one forgets any of it. This is the book that probably captures the essence of Howard Zinn as my intellectual hero. More than an academic, Howard Zinn was the type of person that never forgot the struggle of growing up poor. He never forgot the challenges, the strife, and never lost the compassion for others even as his fortunes improved. A former bombardier, Zinn arrived at the notion that war was just a way to brutalize all It's been years since I had read this book and it is shameful that one forgets any of it. This is the book that probably captures the essence of Howard Zinn as my intellectual hero. More than an academic, Howard Zinn was the type of person that never forgot the struggle of growing up poor. He never forgot the challenges, the strife, and never lost the compassion for others even as his fortunes improved. A former bombardier, Zinn arrived at the notion that war was just a way to brutalize all those involved to justify the atrocities commuted by both sides. It ultimately solved little despite moral justifications. And without maligning the soldiers that fought in it, Zinn simply kept asking the question of how it could eliminated. Rather than any bitterness, Zinn is the most hopeful of any of the historians and social-issues writers. He sees hope in the most minute human demonstrations of compassion. He seems small improvements even as change has to break through endless resistance and often leave those seeking it bloodied and beaten. Mostly, I admire Zinn because he cared about people, their right to happiness, education, health, fulfillment. He cared about the people without lobbyists, profit sheets, exploitable natural resources. In today's world that's somewhat radical notion; a socialist notion, I suppose. Howard Zinn reminds us to turn the tables and think of it as a human notion and responsibility. "Revolutionary change does not come as one cataclysmic moment (beware of such moments!) but as an endless succession of surprises, moving zig-zag towards a more decent society. We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world" (p. 208).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Antonis

    I had never thought I'd love an autobiographical non-fiction book, but half the time I was reading this one I cried and laughed, moved by the many inspiring "little acts" of courage and civil disobedience. It is a true injection of optimism.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I've read. My first introduction to Zinn came at the great expense, and weight, of A People's History. While I didn't have the tenacity to make my way all the way through, the idea of an alternative history book really peaked my interest in its author. Upon my brother's return from a semester at Morehouse College, where he spent most of his time in classes at Spelman College, he eagerly dropped Zinn's memoir into my lap, insisting I take it with me to Undoubtedly one of the most powerful books I've read. My first introduction to Zinn came at the great expense, and weight, of A People's History. While I didn't have the tenacity to make my way all the way through, the idea of an alternative history book really peaked my interest in its author. Upon my brother's return from a semester at Morehouse College, where he spent most of his time in classes at Spelman College, he eagerly dropped Zinn's memoir into my lap, insisting I take it with me to school. I couldn't be more glad he did. "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" reflects on the positions Zinn held throughout his career, the choices that drove him to those positions and the challenges he faced, and posed, in each. In a similar light as Derrick Bell's, "Confronting Authority," Zinn eloquently and accessibly lays out his ideals in confrontations with those who stood in his way or actively disagreed with his pursuit of a true justice. Much of what I find most inspiring about Zinn is not any particular ideology he holds but rather the process through which he encouraged his students to find their own path. He believed strongly in critical pedagogy, recognizing that individuals can come to their own conclusions but that in order for the educational experience to be comprehensive, it inevitably requires questioning and critical thinking, not rote memorization and passive acceptance of a world-as-is. So much of what I read in Zinn is what I hear coming from my brother's struggles and I feel fortunate to have such a guiding and challenging force in my life. One that asks the questions of me that force me to ask further questions of myself and the world in which I exist. For if there's one take away that resonates most with me, it is not that the goal is any particular answer but but rather finding the questions that can lead us towards an ever expanding series of answers that define the path of justice.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Moira McPartlin

    I have a new hero! I read Howard Zinn's Just War a short time ago and was looking forward to reading this memoir. It tells of his time teaching black kids during the civil rights movement in the States and his part in furthering that cause. He then moves to teach in Boston and the timescale reaches the Vietnam War and again he describes his participation in the anti war movement. But he also explains his humble beginnings and why he fights for justice and human rights. His belief in human I have a new hero! I read Howard Zinn's Just War a short time ago and was looking forward to reading this memoir. It tells of his time teaching black kids during the civil rights movement in the States and his part in furthering that cause. He then moves to teach in Boston and the timescale reaches the Vietnam War and again he describes his participation in the anti war movement. But he also explains his humble beginnings and why he fights for justice and human rights. His belief in human compassion and the power of individuals to make a difference is inspiring. The last chapter is about hope and the last page is so perfect in it's summing up I almost cried. I would urge anyone interested in politics to read this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Miquixote

    What an inspiring read. What a courageous man. An easy read of the life of the author of the legendary 'People's History of the United States'. Zinn, the academic caters to the general population in this work and succeeds in doing so.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mary

    Zinn's message rings just as true today as it did in 1993 when it was published. READ IT.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    The more I learn about Zinn the more respect I have for him. This memoir highlights just some of his incredible life and I would definitely recommend to anyone looking to start understanding Zinn. Really interesting to hear about these events from his own perspective after learning about his role throughout them.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jamie

    I received this updated version of Howard Zinn's memoir/autobiography. I knew who Zinn was, of course, and what he had written, but hadn't myself read anything of his yet. In these tumultuous times, reading is an escape, so I haven't been reading much like this. I decided to give this book a try because his purpose for writing it was to show how movements can create change, and to give hope. I learned a lot from Zinn's book - specifics of movements I knew about in general. His history is I received this updated version of Howard Zinn's memoir/autobiography. I knew who Zinn was, of course, and what he had written, but hadn't myself read anything of his yet. In these tumultuous times, reading is an escape, so I haven't been reading much like this. I decided to give this book a try because his purpose for writing it was to show how movements can create change, and to give hope. I learned a lot from Zinn's book - specifics of movements I knew about in general. His history is fascinating, and just as I had hoped, it is hope-infusing. Important history to read and know about, and a perfect read in these scary times if you need some hope.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Raquel

    If my mind were malleable and uncritical, I would have come away with a dangerous set of situational ethics and relative morals. But it's not, so I learned the author is a fool.

  12. 5 out of 5

    ben

    I am still a huge fan of Zinn. His writing is humble but so smart. He inspires me to do more, be more, and live bigger.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ai Miller

    First off, I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I'm grateful to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book. This is a really good little memoir; if you've read others by activists like Zinn (Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark, for example, or the memoir by Staughton and Alice Lynd,) you basically know what you're getting into, but it's still really solid and I think probably important for a lot of folks to read right now (hence, in some ways, the First off, I received this book through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and I'm grateful to the publisher for the opportunity to read this book. This is a really good little memoir; if you've read others by activists like Zinn (Rebecca Solnit's Hope in the Dark, for example, or the memoir by Staughton and Alice Lynd,) you basically know what you're getting into, but it's still really solid and I think probably important for a lot of folks to read right now (hence, in some ways, the reason for the reissue.) Zinn comes across as both kind of soft and clearly self-ware, and some of the things he says here are really beautiful. There are things I would have liked more out of the book, but I can't exactly demand them here, and I admittedly haven't read his other works. Overall though I really enjoyed this, it's a really fast read, and I encourage folks interested in hearing his insights to read it!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Okan

    Zinn's is a very interesting life, I doubt if you can actually go through such a variety of experiences within the span of just one lifetime these days -from a poverty-ridden childhood to shipfitting, from that to being a bombardier in the WWII, from that to grad school and academic life, from that to civil rights activism in the American South and peace activism in the anti-Vietnam-War movement etc. etc. The storytelling around these moments was good and the book is full of sweet-sensuous Zinn's is a very interesting life, I doubt if you can actually go through such a variety of experiences within the span of just one lifetime these days -from a poverty-ridden childhood to shipfitting, from that to being a bombardier in the WWII, from that to grad school and academic life, from that to civil rights activism in the American South and peace activism in the anti-Vietnam-War movement etc. etc. The storytelling around these moments was good and the book is full of sweet-sensuous anecdotes as well as inspirational events and personalities (my favorite being the priest with whom Zinn went to Vietnam for the return of three American POWs); but on the whole I found Zinn's optimism a little simplistic and his MO consisting of speeches, demonstrations, books, articles, picket lines and courtroom testimonials (at the end of which the public awakens and pressures/arguments become unbearable for the personalities of power) a bit difficult to relate to -almost irrelevant to the times and places I've grown and lived in.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Vaishak

    Howard Zinn’s inspirational memoir is one of a kind. It traces a few anecdotes from his life’s events, but its principal thrust comes from telling the stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, Howard Zinn among them. The people are extraordinary in the sense that they are ordinary people challenging the status quo, challenging oppression, putting themselves up for sacrifice for our common good. Howard Zinn has been called many things: from being a radical to be a troublemaker, Howard Zinn’s inspirational memoir is one of a kind. It traces a few anecdotes from his life’s events, but its principal thrust comes from telling the stories of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, Howard Zinn among them. The people are extraordinary in the sense that they are ordinary people challenging the status quo, challenging oppression, putting themselves up for sacrifice for our common good. Howard Zinn has been called many things: from being a radical to be a troublemaker, but I think in the end all he wanted was to be a good human being. This took him from participating in early civil rights efforts in the deep south to giving talks about justice and democracy in Boston and everywhere else. This memoir jots a few of the seminal events of his time, while bringing out the very many people playing small roles, but then, precisely because they went against what existed, big roles. More importantly, this memoir is a story of hope, of how we can achieve an understanding of the people around us: white, brown, black, and of every other color by simply speaking up, by simply questioning the injustice that plagues the modern age. Zinn argues if history is any evidence of how things will turn out, there are then countless stories of cruetly but also of compassion and sacrifice, and by emphasizing the kind sides of human beings, we can go a long way to a peaceful and worthwhile existence. “You can’t be neutral on a moving train” is a remark by Zinn to warn us that acting and acting now, is of the fundamental importance.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Ross

    I keep meaning to read A People's History of the United States, but this came up on Overdrive so I went for it. Nicely narrated by David Strathairn. Zinn was a thoroughly admirable man, who lived his principles and was always on the right side of every struggle. I wish he were still alive.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Graham

    An entertaining, easy read. Zinn was a great writer and thinker and I personally think that anybody who lives in the US should have to read his "People's History Of The United States." In this, his memoir, the reader is offered a glimpse of the forces that shaped his thinking. It's nothing too earth-shaking, certainly lacking much of the insight for which he's better known, and can occasionally seem self-congratulatory. But it's worth reading either as an introduction to the man himself or as a An entertaining, easy read. Zinn was a great writer and thinker and I personally think that anybody who lives in the US should have to read his "People's History Of The United States." In this, his memoir, the reader is offered a glimpse of the forces that shaped his thinking. It's nothing too earth-shaking, certainly lacking much of the insight for which he's better known, and can occasionally seem self-congratulatory. But it's worth reading either as an introduction to the man himself or as a supplement to his more thoroughly-researched work.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jenn

    This is very much a "preaching to the choir" kind of book so I don't expect my right wing family to read or enjoy this book. However, Howard Zinn's amazing life and support of civil disobedience gives me hope for America at large. Not everyone agrees with the mainstream and some choose to stand up for what they think is right, even when it puts them in danger. God bless you, Dr. Zinn. The world missed you terribly.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Noah

    Howard Zinn is one of my heroes and this book just confirms that he led a life that is truly worth emulating. I'd read the last paragraph of this book years ago and quote the last line in every talk I give about why I run a socially conscious design firm. Read this short memoir and have your belief that our world can improve reaffirmed.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lee Hertzler

    A disturbing but important book. We need to be educated!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Why do you live in this country?,” is a poignant question asked of the author following his book The People’s History of the United States, in which what we have been taught in school – and not taught in school- makes people of a patriotic bent uncomfortable. It is the elephant in the room, and it is the conundrum of this country: America espouses itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. However, its history, if one cares to look, and look at the whole narrative (the part of what we are Why do you live in this country?,” is a poignant question asked of the author following his book The People’s History of the United States, in which what we have been taught in school – and not taught in school- makes people of a patriotic bent uncomfortable. It is the elephant in the room, and it is the conundrum of this country: America espouses itself as the bastion of freedom and democracy. However, its history, if one cares to look, and look at the whole narrative (the part of what we are not taught in school) with what was actually done (and why), we would then receive a whole different perspective on American exposition, and what America still does, historically, locally, nationally and abroad. Nevertheless, Zinn’s additional point of the book is to provide the reader with his own biography against the backdrop of history, to show the reader how and why he came to the perspectives he has. One does not feel one way or another out of a vacuum; there is a reason, narrative, background, culture one comes from that shapes one toward the perceptions one has, or the perceptions one comes to obtain. Zinn ‘escapes’ the hard work of the Brooklyn navy yard to fight in the just war of World War II. However, like Pilgrim in Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five, he finds that however noble the war is, it is not so noble with his peers and those considered to be lower than the brass of that war. Moreover, it takes a peer to enlighten Zinn on the fact that however noble the Second World war is to stop fascism, the war is not as noble from the American side as one is purported to believe: it is not fought for the people. It is also fought for political image and power. Subsequent wars will continue to bear this out, however noble or urgent they are communicated otherwise by our leadership. Zinn’s teaching career also focuses on the era of Jim Crow and his bravery to teach his students that there is more to education that becoming educated. One must do, not become comfortable in the rights and privileges of academia, and beyond. Again, and again, Zinn’s principles, which he teaches his students, are tested in his willing protests against Jim Crow, Vietnam and the hypocrisy of politics itself, in its espousing one thing, but doing the opposite. I am personally taken with Chapter 12 “In Court: “The Heart of the Matter,” as one principle of law IS to get to the heart of the matter; to seek the truth. Yet, as Zinn illustrates, there is a difference between Law and Justice. Whoever holds what is considered to be the law, can subsequently make more to favor him/herself (and his/her cohorts) at the expense of other people. Therefore, there is a disconnect between the purpose of law, and the idea of Justice. The point of the book is despite this, it takes bravery and the strong uncompromising will to speak out against this and crucially to act – as what was done against Jim Crow and Vietnam. Zinn does admit that he has alimit as to wanting to be with his family, and that even in being jailed, he does have it better than most who are jailed/imprisoned. I also found the irony in timing and Court thrust in trying Daniel Ellsberg in his releasing the Pentagon Papers, with the looming Watergate investigation. All I am going to say here, is “No more questions.” The reader has to read the book to appreciate the irony here. Still, the insights from Zinn’s students’ journals provide hopeful glimpses that we are waking up to being lied to on many fronts. The following simple line says it all: All instructors are like pages in a book and without the unabridged edition we’ll never get the whole story.” (page 205) Thank you, Professor Zinn, for all you have taught us, beyond your classroom!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

    Howard Zinn writes with clarity, passion, and conviction. This book is a memoir through which we revisit our history. A bombardier in WWII, a naïve twenty-year-old, he had never questioned the war, the reasons for “killing the fascists.” We move chronologically as he highlights significant periods and moments in his life – all representing dots on his path to becoming a radical, a firm believer in civil disobedience. He speaks of the many people famous and unknown whose actions have made Howard Zinn writes with clarity, passion, and conviction. This book is a memoir through which we revisit our history. A bombardier in WWII, a naïve twenty-year-old, he had never questioned the war, the reasons for “killing the fascists.” We move chronologically as he highlights significant periods and moments in his life – all representing dots on his path to becoming a radical, a firm believer in civil disobedience. He speaks of the many people famous and unknown whose actions have made enormous differences in all of our lives. Small actions matter so much! Stepping over a line, NOT stepping over a line, standing up, saying yes, saying no. Acting with the deepest integrity. I highly recommend this book; it is inspiring and hopeful especially in today’s landscape. A few quotes - On war: In this book I tell of my experience as a bombardier in the Second World War. I describe how I came to the conclusion, after dropping bombs on European cities, and celebrating the victory over fascism, that war, even a “good war” while it may bring immediate relief, cannot solve fundamental problems. Indeed, the glow of that “good war” has been used to cast a favorable light over every bad war for the next fifty years, wars in which our government lied to us, and millions of innocent people died. (Preface 2002) On movements: What the movement proved, however, is that even if people lack the customary attributes of power – money, political authority, physical force – as did the black people of the Deep South, there is a power that can be created out of pent-up indignation, courage, and the inspiration of a common cause, and that if enough people put their minds and bodies into that cause, they can win. It is a phenomenon recorded again and again in the history of popular movements against injustice all over the world. (Chapter 6, “I’ll Be Here”:Mississippi) On wars: The more I read, the more I thought about World War II, the more I became convinced that the atmosphere of war brutalizes everyone involved, begets a fanaticism in which the original moral factor (which certainly existed in World War II – opposition to a ruthless tyranny, to brutal aggression) is buried at the bottom of a heap of atrocities committed by all sides. (Chapter 7, A Veteran against War) On civil disobedience: No doubt the odds are against dissenters in any nation’s judicial system. But human beings are not machines, and however powerful the pressure to conform, they sometimes are so moved by what they see as injustice that they dare to declare their independence. In that historical possibility lies hope. (Chapter 12, In Court: The Heart of the Matter) On education: . . .It confirmed what I learned from my Spelman years, that education becomes most rich and alive when it confronts the reality of moral conflict in the world. (Chapter 9, The Last Teach-In) It seemed a fitting way to end my teaching career. I had always insisted that a good education was a synthesis of book learning and involvement in social action, that each enriched the other. I wanted my students to know that the accumulation of knowledge, while fascinating in itself, is not sufficient as long as so many people in the world have no opportunity to experience that fascination. (Chapter 15, The Possibility of Hope).

  23. 4 out of 5

    Laszlo Szerdahelyi

    There's two things that will impress you off the bat after finishing this book: One, is the titanium character of Howard Zinn, a great historian and social activist, who from humble beginnings in the Brooklyn shipyards ended up one of the canon figures of the radical movement and thought, the other, is the incredible value and great cohesion of his writing, that make this book an exemplary introduction to the critical thought and action, while at the same time being an impressive rundown of the There's two things that will impress you off the bat after finishing this book: One, is the titanium character of Howard Zinn, a great historian and social activist, who from humble beginnings in the Brooklyn shipyards ended up one of the canon figures of the radical movement and thought, the other, is the incredible value and great cohesion of his writing, that make this book an exemplary introduction to the critical thought and action, while at the same time being an impressive rundown of the struggle of so many to achieve some of the most fundamental freedoms of our time. Zinn's writing is very humble, personal and poetic, often he brings up personal literary works, novels and poems as interludes in his writing, he speaks of the people that he has interacted with, from the various vantage points of activism from the civil rights movement to the anti-war movement, with great love and compassion and a feeling of solidarity that is very heartwarming. Furthermore, his personal journey from a poor Jewish family in New York to one of the greatest American historians and his intellectual, political and personal maturity make for a very interesting read as Zinn recounts his class-conscious upbringing, his personal revelations on the nature of society and the world during his time as bombardier during WW2 and his later struggles with academic orthodoxy at Boston University. As usual, Howard Zinn always infuses the reader or listener with a great sense of hope, that despite the worst of times, the worst of oppositions to freedom, tyranny can and should be fought and yet again in this book as in his life and body of work, makes a strong case for civil disobedience. In our times of ''post-truth'', rising of fascistic political movements, climate change and economic inequality, his writing is a refreshing gulp of water in a scorching desert of conformity and defeatism in the face of an order that is set to annihilate human existence. A work to be recommended to anyone who wishes to have an introduction into a hopeful approach to our times and lives and a great call to action.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tim Vasil

    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 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.

  25. 5 out of 5

    AJ

    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 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nicole Ankenmann

    Audiobook: 8hr. I was born in the late 1980's. While I technically experienced a number of the global changes described in this social-justice memoir, my political memory begins with the attacks of 9/11. Learning the detailed history of one "woke" white man's life as he advocated for civil rights from WW2 through Y2K was an education that this waking white girl needed. You Can't Be Neutral is a critical read for those of us who think that the Black Lives Matter movement has only been going on for Audiobook: 8hr. I was born in the late 1980's. While I technically experienced a number of the global changes described in this social-justice memoir, my political memory begins with the attacks of 9/11. Learning the detailed history of one "woke" white man's life as he advocated for civil rights from WW2 through Y2K was an education that this waking white girl needed. You Can't Be Neutral is a critical read for those of us who think that the Black Lives Matter movement has only been going on for a couple of years.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Isaac

    Excellent memoir; the most encouraging work I've read that's also fairly realistic about the major plight of the rampant injustice wrought by the American ruling class. Essentially, the notion that the role of large-scale organizing of the oppressed has been effective in two regimes: (1) the Civil Rights movement, and (2) the anti-Vietnam war movement. Admittedly, though, those two regimes (the war economy and racism) are now worsening and arguably have only changed form, rather than measurably Excellent memoir; the most encouraging work I've read that's also fairly realistic about the major plight of the rampant injustice wrought by the American ruling class. Essentially, the notion that the role of large-scale organizing of the oppressed has been effective in two regimes: (1) the Civil Rights movement, and (2) the anti-Vietnam war movement. Admittedly, though, those two regimes (the war economy and racism) are now worsening and arguably have only changed form, rather than measurably improved. However, I think there's something to his optimism.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steph

    I read this book for a college class and was hooked by the second paragraph. As a college student with a passion for politics and social justice, his message and his life inspired me beyond words. The facts of his life are enough to make anyone interested in what he has to say, but when they are presented with a historical backdrop and prose to make a literature lover's heart swoon, it's a truly incredible thing. This has quickly become one of my favorite books and one I often suggest to other I read this book for a college class and was hooked by the second paragraph. As a college student with a passion for politics and social justice, his message and his life inspired me beyond words. The facts of his life are enough to make anyone interested in what he has to say, but when they are presented with a historical backdrop and prose to make a literature lover's heart swoon, it's a truly incredible thing. This has quickly become one of my favorite books and one I often suggest to other revolutionaries as a means for inspiration and direction.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Owen

    An exceptional view in to the history of the last century from his birth during the 20's and childhood in depression to WWII through to recent history, Zinn was a witness and participant in some amazing events, including bombing of civilian population in WWII, retrieval of POWs in Vietnam, trials of peace activists and Daniel Ellsberg, and participation and friendships with leaders of civil rights struggles, anti-war movement, and much more. Utterly fascinating memoir.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sherman

    A non-conformist for sure and a strong supporter of civil rights Zinn says exactly what he is thinking. A very informative book and one with a lot of research so it is so interesting to read. He thinks we should welcome change and voice our opinions no matter what. He is right.

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