Written by Harry Kreisler
As a kid, Noam Chomsky handed out the Daily Mirror at his uncle's newsstand on 72nd Street, inadvertently finding himself in a buzzing intellectual and political hub for European immigrants in New York. Iranian human rights Nobelist Shirin Ebadi and her husband signed their own legal contract, attempting to restore equality to their marriage after the Iranian Revolution effectively erased the legal rights of women. Elizabeth Warren set out to expose those frauds declaring bankruptcy and taking advantage of the system--only to discover, in her research, a very different story of hard-working middle-class families facing economic collapse in the absence of a social safety net. While studying at Oxford, a young Tariq Ali made a bet with a friend that he could work the Vietnam War into every single answer on his final exams.
In this rousing, thoughtful, often funny, and always inspiring volume, a diverse and impressive group of thinkers reflect on those formative experiences that shaped their own political commitments. A fascinating new window into the revealing links between the personal and the political, Political Awakenings will engage readers across generations.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For more than 25 years, the University of California's Kreisler has been conducting hour-long interviews with "the distinguished men and women who pass through Berkeley on a daily basis" for a series he calls "Conversations with History." In this remarkable collection, Kreisler selects 20 converations, spotlighting some of the most important activists, academics, and journalists of our generation, including Elizabeth Warren, Michael Pollan, Tariq Ali, Howard Zinn, and Oliver Stone. Having honed his craft over decades, Kreisler poses provocative, open-ended questions leagues deeper than typical sound bite-centered journalism. While discussion ranges from apartheid with Justice Albie Sachs to the Iranian revolution with Nobel Peace Prize-winning lawyer Shirin Ebadi, Kreisler also investigates the formative experiences of each subject. Offering insight into world events, as well as the life and career paths of those who work for change, this study in the art of thoughtful dissent should fascinate anyone interested in activism and world events, especially new and soon-to-be graduates.
As the director of the Institute of International Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, Kreisler has spent 25 years interviewing hundreds of well-regarded economists, politicians, activists, and artists. In this fascinating collection, he offers 20 of those interviews, focusing on the common theme of how their ideas and perspectives were formulated. Noam Chomsky recalls the influence of his Jewish immigrant family, as an eight-year-old working at his uncle’s newsstand and listening to customers debate the issues of the day. Daniel Ellsberg, discloser of the Pentagon Papers, describes his concerted efforts to stay away from the Vietnam War issue while working as a consultant and researcher at the Defense Department. Michael Pollan recalls the passion for the environment he learned from his grandfather, a gardener who was in the produce business. Oliver Stone equates film directing with playing Dr. Frankenstein, experimenting with the chemistry of actors, drama, writing, and characters, and traces his influences in history and philosophy. Interviews are organized under topical headings, including protest and change, environmental issues, imperialism, resistance through the arts, and human rights. --Vanessa Bush
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