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Historian, activist, and bestselling author Howard Zinn has been interviewed by David Barsamian for public radio numerous times over the past decade. Original Zinn is a collection of their conversations, showcasing the acclaimed author of A People's History of the United States at his most engaging and provocative. Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine Historian, activist, and bestselling author Howard Zinn has been interviewed by David Barsamian for public radio numerous times over the past decade. Original Zinn is a collection of their conversations, showcasing the acclaimed author of A People's History of the United States at his most engaging and provocative. Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine, civil disobedience, the importance of memory and remembering history, and the role of artists—from Langston Hughes to Dalton Trumbo to Bob Dylan—in relation to social change, Original Zinn is Zinn at his irrepressible best, the acute perception of a scholar whose impressive knowledge and probing intellect make history immediate and relevant for us all.


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Historian, activist, and bestselling author Howard Zinn has been interviewed by David Barsamian for public radio numerous times over the past decade. Original Zinn is a collection of their conversations, showcasing the acclaimed author of A People's History of the United States at his most engaging and provocative. Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine Historian, activist, and bestselling author Howard Zinn has been interviewed by David Barsamian for public radio numerous times over the past decade. Original Zinn is a collection of their conversations, showcasing the acclaimed author of A People's History of the United States at his most engaging and provocative. Touching on such diverse topics as the American war machine, civil disobedience, the importance of memory and remembering history, and the role of artists—from Langston Hughes to Dalton Trumbo to Bob Dylan—in relation to social change, Original Zinn is Zinn at his irrepressible best, the acute perception of a scholar whose impressive knowledge and probing intellect make history immediate and relevant for us all.

30 review for Original Zinn: Conversations on History and Politics

  1. 5 out of 5

    Beth

    I think Howard Zinn was an amazing person, someone who "talked the talk and walked the walk" on social justice for decades. Even in his 80s, when this book was published, Zinn was traveling the country and the world, going to worldwide conferences and lecturing. This collection of interviews is my first direct experience with Zinn's words, and unfortunately it doesn't feel like a particularly strong example of them. The first three interviews jump from topic to topic without going into depth on m I think Howard Zinn was an amazing person, someone who "talked the talk and walked the walk" on social justice for decades. Even in his 80s, when this book was published, Zinn was traveling the country and the world, going to worldwide conferences and lecturing. This collection of interviews is my first direct experience with Zinn's words, and unfortunately it doesn't feel like a particularly strong example of them. The first three interviews jump from topic to topic without going into depth on much. The rest do stay on course, dealing with the early '00s Iraq war, how history is erased and changed in interest of the establishment, and so on, but they still have a somewhat rushed, "getting from point to point in 30 minutes or less" aspect to them. The Iraq war started by George Bush on flimsy premises after 9/11 is mentioned frequently, unsurprising in a book that was published in 2006. It's sobering how little has changed since then. The government still focuses its media energies and budget on war and "patriotism," and anything having to do with its people's well-being is diminished or even demonized. Capitalism drives more and more money into the bottomless gullets of the fat cats, the 1%. Hope for a just future comes from activists who act for the good of all by organizing and protesting against the establishment. This short book was worth reading, if for no other reason than that it encourages me to read some of Zinn's other work, A People's History of the United States in particular. On its own, it had plenty of moments to highlight, but didn't hit the mark as well as I had hoped it would.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Sarkies

    Howard Zinn and the American State 14 January 2012 This is similar to the Noam Chomskey book that I read which was a transcript of a radio interview. This book is a collection of interviews with Alternate Radio where Zinn discusses American History and where the United States was at that point in time. While the book was released in 2006, it contains a number of interviews post September 11 and the main theme of the book is that really nothing has changed with the American system of government si Howard Zinn and the American State 14 January 2012 This is similar to the Noam Chomskey book that I read which was a transcript of a radio interview. This book is a collection of interviews with Alternate Radio where Zinn discusses American History and where the United States was at that point in time. While the book was released in 2006, it contains a number of interviews post September 11 and the main theme of the book is that really nothing has changed with the American system of government since its inception. He believes that it is a militant government bent on war of the sake of war, and that the many wars that the United States has been involved in drains funds from the public purse to support what Eisenhower termed as the 'Military Industrial Complex'. I have spoken about war elsewhere, and will do so again, however I will try keep my comments brief here. One of the things that I tend to disagree with the pacifists is that there is the idea of a just war, and that there are times when to is necessarily to go to war, obviously to defend the interests of yourself and your allies. However, sometimes it is necessary to go to war to attempt to prevent the aggressive tenancies of another power or idea, sometimes it is necessary to go to war to remove a tyrant. However it is not the question of war that I am raising, but how one goes about it. It is quite clear that while there was probably a very good reason to send troops to Vietnam, however the way the war was carried out was not. The same goes with Iraq, and it is with Iraq that I will now come to. It is accepted that Sadam was a tyrant, and it is accepted that he murdered many innocent people during his reign. What made Sadam such a threat though was that he has industrialised his nation, and then geared his nation to war. It is true that there is a lot of oil wealth in Iraq, and during the cold war he would play the Russians against the Americans to get the best price for his oil. With the proceeds he then set about industrialising his country and his military, and proceeded to go to war with Iran. The Americans even provided him with weaponry to fight this war. However, it was after the war was over, and that his ally, the Soviet Union, had collapsed, that the United States discovered that he could not be trusted. The US has no problem with propping up brutal dictators, as long as the dictator plays by their rules, which usually involves opening the country up to corporate exploitation. Further, as long as the country does not embark on projects involving poverty relief, then that is fine as well. There have been a number of South American countries who have elected socialist governments in an attempt to address the poverty of the region, only to discover that the US government has not only allied with their political opponents, but armed them as well (the Sandanistas in Nicuragua and Salvadore Allande on Chile both ring a bell). While it was a noble and just idea to go into Iraq to remove Sadam, this was not the reason that they wanted to do it. There are numerous other dictators (as mentioned) that are just as brutal and dangerous as Sadam, but they are on the US' side. Sadam clearly was not, so he had to be removed. Further, the reason to allow the Iraqis to determine their own destiny but to rather install their own corporate friendly government in the country and open up the population to the free market. It was also intended that the oil wealth of Iraq not go to the Iraqi's, but straight into the coffers of the oil barons. However, things did not turn out the way they expected. They expected that the country would be in such as shock that they could move in, change everything, install a Pizza Hut and McDonalds on every corner, and then move out just as fast. However, it did not turn out like that. Immediately after the government collapsed the people went on a looting soree, and six months after the invasion Iraq was on the brink of civil war. One of the other important things that Zinn discusses in this book is history and education. This goes in hand with the idea of media manipulation. With the media concentrated in the hands of (I believe) seven megacorporations, and the expense involved in attempting to establish an alternate source, our understanding of the past and the present is presented to us in a sanitised package promoting the ideas that the complex wants us to accept, and to rewrite history in a way that we can never know the truth of what really happened. Take Vietnam for instance: it was an embarrassment for the US government, and they had to get out of there as soon as possible. What was more of an embarrassment was that the media was not controlled. We saw a similar incident in Somalia (which is ironically forgotten, and has been sanitised so that only the heroic actions of a small few are all that is remembered by what turned out to be another embarrassing loss). Now information from the warzone is much more tightly controlled. In Vietnam the journalists wrote about and filmed what we saw, and for the first time, on our television screens, we saw the true horror of war. However, come Iraq, journalists are embedded with American troops, and those that go out on their own are told that their life is in their own hands. There are even allegations that journalists who would not follow the official line and remain where they were told to ended up dead. The same went for human rights activists and other NGOs that went into Iraq. The powers that be do not want us to know the truth, and as such limit what we can find out. They will even resort to murder to keep the truth out of our ears (if we even are able to remember it). Education is another thing that is under attack. Education is dangerous because it teaches people to think for themselves. With funding being withdrawn from public schools, and these schools becoming little more than daycare centres, the bulk of the population is being denied a right to education. It is only the wealthy that are able to afford a good education, and even then I suspect that what is taught in the prep-schools is a sanitised, official version, that is not questioned. I suspect that people in those schools are not taught to think but rather taught the official line, and are expected to follow it. There are numerous works on this issue of education, but one film that springs to mind is Dead Poet's Society. In brief it is about a maverick teacher that comes to a prep-school and begins to teach students literature. However, this backfires when the parents find out that their prized possessions (their children) have decided to become actors rather than doctors, and as a result one of the students commits suicide, and the teacher is blamed. It is interesting that none of the parents actually acknowledge that maybe they are in the wrong, it is much easier to externalise blame, and to tarnish another's name just to give one a sense of self-justification. I have probably written enough on this book and on Zinn's ideas for now. There are other books in my collection that also deal with the issues that are raised here, and no doubt I will return to them soon.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Gina

    I have learned more from reading the books of Howard Zinn than I did from 13 years of public school, a college education, and reading a newspaper every day of my life combined.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    Howard Zinn is one of the few notable non-fiction writers that I would have not been intimidated in having a conversation with. He was a well-educated man who could explain things in terms that just about anyone could understand (the polar opposite of Christopher Hitchens). Original Zinn is a compilation of conversations with David Barsamian between 2002 and 2005. Listening (reading) to Zinn on a wide variety of topics, I was in awe of how well researched and mature his views were on politics, w Howard Zinn is one of the few notable non-fiction writers that I would have not been intimidated in having a conversation with. He was a well-educated man who could explain things in terms that just about anyone could understand (the polar opposite of Christopher Hitchens). Original Zinn is a compilation of conversations with David Barsamian between 2002 and 2005. Listening (reading) to Zinn on a wide variety of topics, I was in awe of how well researched and mature his views were on politics, war and racial suffering. For anyone that is unfamiliar with his work, Peoples History of the United States, and The Zinn Reader, this is a brief insight into his philosophy and style.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Albert

    Zinn's death occurred at a crucial point in American history. If only there could have been an additional edition of this book where he addresses the issues of 2011 and 2012. Even so, this book is an important commentary on American Foreign Policy and Politics. Rest in Peace indeed. Zinn's death occurred at a crucial point in American history. If only there could have been an additional edition of this book where he addresses the issues of 2011 and 2012. Even so, this book is an important commentary on American Foreign Policy and Politics. Rest in Peace indeed.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sidik Fofana

    SIX WORD REVIEW: Enough to make FBI tap readers.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    The more I read of his work, the more I realize what a loss his recent death is for America.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    Illuminating conversations on history and politics with one of the great thinkers of our time...Howard Zinn

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dawn

    I've had several people recommend that I start with this book if I was to familiarize myself with him. I honestly couldn't finish it. Most of his answers were half answers, no real historical or his own background, or anything. Just a few half sentences interspersed with a few longer ones..and didn't always answer the question at hand. What I was able to gather is that he was/is a professor, he does want serious change, is against war, the system as it is today--with the wealthy controlling pre I've had several people recommend that I start with this book if I was to familiarize myself with him. I honestly couldn't finish it. Most of his answers were half answers, no real historical or his own background, or anything. Just a few half sentences interspersed with a few longer ones..and didn't always answer the question at hand. What I was able to gather is that he was/is a professor, he does want serious change, is against war, the system as it is today--with the wealthy controlling pretty much everything, and if we don't stand up and do something, we're screwed. Beyond that, I may have to find another book down the line.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Richard Carnes

    We need more Zinns Zinn is a prophet in the wilderness. We need to educate our children in the Truth of history. To question all that leads to inhumane treatment of our fellow beings. Teach them to demonstrate loudly about what they know to be wrong. If only one in three people on both sides refuse to fight in unjust wars it will take the other two to imprison them.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I most empathize with zinn as educator. knowledge IS power! if everyone is educated we will all be better off. education starts with reading books. whether you agree or disagree with what is there, you have read the book and have obtained the knowledge. That is the first step!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    A great series of interviews from Howard Zinn ranging from 2000-2005, all which are painfully relevant to today. Definitely need to read more from him.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alfonso Parada

    GOAT

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bill Hopkins

    Dated but still true.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Devon H

    Original Zinn surprised me in that despite the content being from 2006 or even earlier, much of Zinn’s message maintains relevance today. Yet at the same time, as with much modern discussion about society, his methods are quickly outdated. Original Zinn is a compilation of Howard Zinn’s interviews in recent (to the publication date) years up to 2006. He is very upfront about where he stands politically, and seeks to explain his skepticism through a number of outlets, both school-related, in the Original Zinn surprised me in that despite the content being from 2006 or even earlier, much of Zinn’s message maintains relevance today. Yet at the same time, as with much modern discussion about society, his methods are quickly outdated. Original Zinn is a compilation of Howard Zinn’s interviews in recent (to the publication date) years up to 2006. He is very upfront about where he stands politically, and seeks to explain his skepticism through a number of outlets, both school-related, in the news, in the media, and more. He discusses politicians, TV, and books all the while encouraging his readers to develop their skepticism. Definitely my favorite sections were the ones in which he heavily discussed literature and the influence literature can have on students. He encourages everyone to read challenging books that will force you to think about the society you live in. I’d like to argue that almost every book has commentary on society, whether that’s overt or covert, if you pay attention to character development, scenery, and background. However, I agree that some books are more inclined to challenge the structure of society more than others. Overall I found the structure of this book to be rather boring. The conversations he has are broken up funny, merely due to the nature of interviews. They flow in one direction and the next, but a compilation of interviews often brings up the same topics several times, and spaced out over the course of the book these repetitive discussions feel jumbled.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeffrey Bumiller

    I was first turned on to Howard Zinn through the punk scene. I had an Alternative Tentacles Sampler CD and amidst all the music, there was a Howard Zinn track (as well as tracks from Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis). After that introduction I went out an bought Zinn's CD, "Artists in a Time of War" and I eventually read his essential book, "A People's History of the United States". Howard Zinn died in January of 2010, just a few months before my grandmother. This is her copy of Original Zinn, and I was first turned on to Howard Zinn through the punk scene. I had an Alternative Tentacles Sampler CD and amidst all the music, there was a Howard Zinn track (as well as tracks from Noam Chomsky and Angela Davis). After that introduction I went out an bought Zinn's CD, "Artists in a Time of War" and I eventually read his essential book, "A People's History of the United States". Howard Zinn died in January of 2010, just a few months before my grandmother. This is her copy of Original Zinn, and I've just now decided that I could handle reading it; there's a lot of emotion tied up in it for me. These days things move so quickly in the realm of politics and social justice movements that I was slightly afraid that I had waited too long and that this book, published in 2006, would seem outdated. That fear was instantly dissolved and I read this book with the same urgency that I would have read it if it was just released. Howard Zinn was unflinching in his critique of our society. I have since lost, sold, or donated, that first CD I had of Zinn's but while reading this book, I could hear his voice loud and clear, and it still moved me in the same way it did years ago, in the same direction, and further still.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    So so so so so so good! Howard Zinn is incredible and I am so happy I picked this book up. I'm extremely disappointed that, although I was on his list serve for a while, I never made it out to one of his talks in the area before he passed :( but now I'm determined to read more of his work. I felt like I received a year's worth of education in reading this. I also dogeared a ton of pages with titles of books and movies that I want to read/watch to learn more about specific periods of history. So so so so so so good! Howard Zinn is incredible and I am so happy I picked this book up. I'm extremely disappointed that, although I was on his list serve for a while, I never made it out to one of his talks in the area before he passed :( but now I'm determined to read more of his work. I felt like I received a year's worth of education in reading this. I also dogeared a ton of pages with titles of books and movies that I want to read/watch to learn more about specific periods of history.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Love Zinn. Hate that his books seem to be short on or completely without footnotes or bibliography. This gets a pass as it's a series of interesting and illuminating conversations. Certainly there is ample information in free and subscription databases and in print to allow readers to investigate areas of interest. Love Zinn. Hate that his books seem to be short on or completely without footnotes or bibliography. This gets a pass as it's a series of interesting and illuminating conversations. Certainly there is ample information in free and subscription databases and in print to allow readers to investigate areas of interest.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    This question and answer format is a useful format for exploring Howard Zinn's far reaching and eclectic interests in history, politics and culture. Next is his "A People's History of the United States," his classic look at American history from the point of view of the poor, disenfranchised and oppressed. Very readable. This question and answer format is a useful format for exploring Howard Zinn's far reaching and eclectic interests in history, politics and culture. Next is his "A People's History of the United States," his classic look at American history from the point of view of the poor, disenfranchised and oppressed. Very readable.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Somewhat repetitive of Zinn's other works. You might not learn much new about his thoughts and views if you've read a bunch of his other stuff. The conversational style adds a somewhat different perspective though. Worth the read and is a quick read. Somewhat repetitive of Zinn's other works. You might not learn much new about his thoughts and views if you've read a bunch of his other stuff. The conversational style adds a somewhat different perspective though. Worth the read and is a quick read.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    Interesting. It is a group of radio interviews with the journalist/academic/activist Howard Zinn. The very nature of the book makes it ineffective as anything more than an introduction to the man's ideas, but in that capacity it functions quite well. Interesting. It is a group of radio interviews with the journalist/academic/activist Howard Zinn. The very nature of the book makes it ineffective as anything more than an introduction to the man's ideas, but in that capacity it functions quite well.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Omar Khan

    i am reading this right now. it's a set of interviews from around 2002 up to 2006. covers a lot of ground, and goes right into zinn's politics and views of history. his ideas really resonate with me -- i am sorry i really only got into him after he passed. he will be missed. i am reading this right now. it's a set of interviews from around 2002 up to 2006. covers a lot of ground, and goes right into zinn's politics and views of history. his ideas really resonate with me -- i am sorry i really only got into him after he passed. he will be missed.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    The series of interviews are full of great insight and worth a read. By happenstance they discuss not just the early on-going days of Iraq but they cover discussion of other relevant works of the period and is a great intro to Zinn's own works in a very approachable format. The series of interviews are full of great insight and worth a read. By happenstance they discuss not just the early on-going days of Iraq but they cover discussion of other relevant works of the period and is a great intro to Zinn's own works in a very approachable format.

  24. 4 out of 5

    missy jean

    I'm amazed by Zinn's ability to analyze and synthesize history, and put it into a context that makes it urgently relevant to us now. I'm amazed by Zinn's ability to analyze and synthesize history, and put it into a context that makes it urgently relevant to us now.

  25. 4 out of 5

    columbialion

    Additional broad and frank commentary on the stse of American history, politics and society by Professor Zinn.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Dascola

  27. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

  28. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Jacobs

  30. 5 out of 5

    Phil

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