cover image You Cant Be Neutral CL

You Cant Be Neutral CL

Howard Zinn. Beacon Press (MA), $22 (214pp) ISBN 978-0-8070-7058-1

Noted left-wing historian Zinn ( A People's History of the United States ) believes that activism and education are inextricable, and his memoir illuminates a well-engaged life. Teaching at Atlanta's Spelman College in the early days of the civil rights movement, he found allies in principled students like Marian Wright (now Edelman) and budding writer Alice Walker. He advised SNCC in Selma, Ala. He volunteered to fight the Nazis but, after Hiroshima, developed a skeptical pacifism he further exercised as a passionate opponent of the Vietnam War. Zinn's narrative is oddly disjointed: not until late in the book does he recount his youth in the slums of Brooklyn, his discovery of Dickens, Marx and Steinbeck and his post-WW II years as a laborer and a 27-year-old college freshman. If Zinn is a bit Pollyannish, he's also inspirational, arguing that, because much has changed in history, ``We can be surprised again. Indeed, we can do the surprising.'' (Sept.)