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Studs Terkel is the author of eleven books of oral history. He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters, and a recipient of a Presidential National Humanities Medal, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a George Polk Career Award, and the National Book Critics Circle 2003 Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award.
Turning to a subject more elusive than those of his earlier oral histories (work, race, WWII, the American dream and so on), Terkel focuses here on hope as the universal detritus of experience. Terkel worries that Americans are losing hope and consequently losing a collective call to social activism for which hope, he feels, is requisite. Since the book progresses historically, its collective voice grows younger as the book advances toward the present. It is admonitory to note the dampened hopes of older generations. Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets (who piloted the Enola Gay over Hiroshima) dismisses the possibility for peaceful resolutions to post-September 11 conflicts ("We've got to get into a position where we can kill the bastards"); John Kenneth Galbraith, reflecting on the corporate malfeasance of Enron and WorldCom, admits that at his age (94), "there are no untrammeled hopes for the future"; and Adm. Gene LaRoque states simply, "Hope in my view is a wasted emotion." This pessimism, thankfully, wanes as Terkel turns his attention to younger subjects, such as Dr. David Buchanen, who works tirelessly to aid the homeless, and Leroy Orange, whose recent death row pardon has inspired him to want to "talk to at least one youth and turn his life around." Here hope resounds through the pages. Early in the book, Tom Hayden says, "I live now with one goal: to try to learn to be the kind of elder who was missing when I was a kid." With that goal and the hopefulness of the voices that round out this book, hope may well be immortal. (Nov.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Terkel's new book examines how people survive difficult times and situations and retain hope for the future. In a series of thoughtful and moving interviews, 56 men and women from diverse backgrounds discuss overcoming poverty, racism, sexism, prejudice, substance abuse, and political and economic repression. Well-known individuals such as Tom Hayden, John Kenneth Galbraith, Jerry Brown, and Pete Seeger appear alongside unknown teachers, workers, labor organizers, activists, and students. The common theme is the need for hope and belief that a better future is possible. Particularly moving are the stories of a quadriplegic recovering alcoholic attempting to put her life together and two Guatemalans fleeing political repression to build a new life in America. The book opens with an interesting personal note by Terkel that nicely sets the tone. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Stephen L. Hupp, West Virginia Univ., Parkersburg Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Studs Terkel didn't invent the oral history, but as far as modern journalism is concerned, he might as well have.