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Howard Zinn and JD Salinger: Two American Legacies

30th January 2010

howardzinn This week saw the passing of two of America’s great writers–Howard Zinn and JD Salinger. Zinn devoted his life to shedding light on the often bloody and tragic history of the United States, while Salinger redefined American literature with just one novel. 

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America was first published in 1980 and has since been updated several times, with the most recent iteration published in 2003. He sought to inspire “quiet revolution” by telling the history of the country through the perspective of its working people and downtrodden. 

 Salinger’s iconic The Catcher in the Rye tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a teenager who has since become symbolic of youthful rebelliousness and teenaged alienation, controversial themes at the time of the novel’s publication in 1951. What has endeared Caulfield to millions of teenagers and adults worldwide is his honesty and a kind of cynical hope and earnestness. 

 Zinn was a public figure, giving passionate lectures and talks up until just months before his death, while Salinger chose to live in isolation, living as a recluse for the past fifty-odd years. Though the two men were vastly different, their legacies are vital to American identity. 

Check out these Fordham titles that examine the America of Zinn and Salinger:

On Lingering and Being Last: Race and Sovereignty in the New World

Race Questions, Provincialism, and other American Problems

Alienation: Plight of Modern Man

Idylls of the Wanderer:Outside in Literature and Theory

Another Civil War: Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania 1840-1868

Civil Rights in New York City: From World War II to the Guiliani Era

The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War