Thursday, January 21, 2010

Dan Simon: Zinn Coming of Age

Zinn Coming of Age
by Dan Simon
Seven Stories Press

It's hard to believe that after all these years there's still a vast population of Americans who've never heard of Howard Zinn. Yet the airing in December of The People Speak--Zinn's sublime history lesson in the form of a live-reading, live-performance documentary that appeared on the History Channel--proved it.

Seven Stories Press was a beneficiary, as our whole library of Zinn titles sold in unprecedented numbers. But so was the rest of the country. Imagine all of those people hearing for the very first time that it matters more who's in the street protesting in front of the White House than who sits in the Oval Office.

I'm thinking that as much as anything else, people watching were sizing up Zinn himself, a very down to earth, soft-spoken historian who came from humble origins and who was saying things that made sense. They were saying to themselves, "If he can say those things, then I can say those things too. Out loud. And what I say will make a difference"--this of course being the opposite message from the one people usually hear. The film put Zinn front and center as narrator. Zinn himself was setting an example--not only of activist scholarship, but of citizenship plain and simple, and of humanity--an example that anyone is free to follow.

Dan Simon is the publisher of Seven Stories Press.

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