Book of the week : Hope Dies Last

23rd July 2004 at 01:00
Hope Dies Last: making a difference in an indifferent world
By Studs Terkel
Granta Books pound;14.99

Thirty years ago, I left the classroom for BBC school radio. As a novice producer I was sent to make some recordings in a youth centre in a disadvantaged area of Peterborough. As I finished interviewing an angry and alienated young black man, I turned pastoral and offered an optimistic platitude. I can still hear the venom as he spat back: "Don't give me hope." The very first sentence of Studs Terkel's latest book explains the extraordinary strength of his reaction. "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."

In all sorts of ways, this is a genuinely remarkable book. It may even come to be seen as a political or historical turning point. In it, the 92-year-old oral historian (one of radio's most gifted interviewers) presents a series of conversations with some 50 Americans in which they discuss the role hope has played and continues to play in their lives. His interviewees include senators, rights workers, activists, liberals and arch-conservatives. He treats them all with respect and, in return, they share some illuminating insights.

Read more on this book in this week's TES. Friday features will continue to appear in the paper through the summer, but the magazine will return in all its glory on September 3 2004 nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

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