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Book review: 'American Dreamers' by Michael Kazin

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bemildred Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Sep-26-11 12:17 AM
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Book review: 'American Dreamers' by Michael Kazin
With "American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation," Michael Kazin tackles a conventional wisdom so deeply believed that even those it disparages tend to accept it namely, that the history of the American left, for all its drama and artistry, brilliance and passion, is one of failure. It is, in that telling, a story of causes unfulfilled, elections lost, unions busted, communes dispersed. Kazin emerges with a counterpoint, not so much of hidden victories as of grand and enduring achievement, often carried to fruition by moderates but envisioned by the left and propelled by its energy.

It is, to say the least, a timely read.

Kazin is a lucid writer and a capable synthesizer, drawing together strands of politics, economics and culture across a broad sweep of American history. His narrative unearths the obscure contributions of Frances White, who urged her sexually integrated audiences to "turn your churches into halls of science," and revisits the great works of Frederick Douglass and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the overlapping causes of abolition and women's suffrage. He describes the union leaders and rivalries that defined the early 20th century left, and he pays homage to the counterculture of the 1960s, including the iconic Tom Hayden ("Mickey," one colleague reports after meeting Hayden, "I've just seen the next Lenin.").

Finally, he comes loping to an ambivalent conclusion in modern times, when radicals seek an outlet for their intellectual energy and fret over the moderation of America's first black president. Indeed, every half-wit who accuses President Obama of being a socialist should read this book, if only to discover what real ones look like.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/books/la-ca-m...
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