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Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times Hardcover – November 3, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

While American military forces seek to defeat an enemy that has no nation and American citizens ponder a future inextricably linked to the threat of terrorism, legendary writer Studs Terkel steps forward with a remarkable volume of oral histories that sheds new light on fighting for a just cause in uncertain times. As the title of Hope Dies Last suggests, Terkel's interviews all deal with the notion of finding hope in difficult times and holding on to that hope (of a better job, a better life, justice, peace) despite often overwhelming odds. Terkel draws his subjects from an incredibly broad range of backgrounds: pardoned Illinois death row inmate Leroy Orange discusses the events of his life, 94-year-old famed economist John Kenneth Galbraith talks about Enron, undocumented Guatemalans tell of trying to merely survive in modern America. While each testimonial is compelling in its own way, they combine to form a mosaic of human tenacity. Often, as in the case of 1960s civil rights activists, the subjects' ideas are accepted in the long run, for others, including a resident of Chicago's Cabrini Green housing project, the struggle is only just beginning. Terkel, 91 years old at the time of this book's publication, draws from a wealth of human experience but is spry enough to take on new causes and skillfully profile youthful activists with emerging causes. And Hope Dies Last is still a Studs Terkel book, full of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's brand of blue-collar, rabble-rousing, union-card-waving brand of broad shouldered Chicago liberalism that makes the current wave of political writers seem a bit green and petty by comparison. For all of their success in selling books that accuse one another of being liars and idiots, those writers would do well to get out and meet even a few of the people that Studs Terkel has been talking to for years. --John Moe

From Publishers Weekly

Turning to a subject more elusive than those of his earlier oral histories (work, race, WWII, the American dream and so on), Terkel focuses here on hope as the universal detritus of experience. Terkel worries that Americans are losing hope and consequently losing a collective call to social activism for which hope, he feels, is requisite. Since the book progresses historically, its collective voice grows younger as the book advances toward the present. It is admonitory to note the dampened hopes of older generations. Brig. Gen. Paul Tibbets (who piloted the Enola Gay over Hiroshima) dismisses the possibility for peaceful resolutions to post-September 11 conflicts ("We've got to get into a position where we can kill the bastards"); John Kenneth Galbraith, reflecting on the corporate malfeasance of Enron and WorldCom, admits that at his age (94), "there are no untrammeled hopes for the future"; and Adm. Gene LaRoque states simply, "Hope in my view is a wasted emotion." This pessimism, thankfully, wanes as Terkel turns his attention to younger subjects, such as Dr. David Buchanen, who works tirelessly to aid the homeless, and Leroy Orange, whose recent death row pardon has inspired him to want to "talk to at least one youth and turn his life around." Here hope resounds through the pages. Early in the book, Tom Hayden says, "I live now with one goal: to try to learn to be the kind of elder who was missing when I was a kid." With that goal and the hopefulness of the voices that round out this book, hope may well be immortal.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The; First Edition edition (November 3, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565848373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565848375
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #866,102 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Studs Terkel (1912-2008) was a free spirit, an outspoken populist, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, a terrible ham, and one of the best-loved characters on the American scene. Born in New York in 1912, he lived in Chicago for over eight decades. His radio show was carried on stations throughout the country.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Alexiel on January 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Studs Terkel. I apologize, I cannot continue without prefacing my review without a word or two about this great man, and I am not normally effusive in my praise.
If you wanted someone to try and model your life on, you could do far worse than to choose Studs Terkel. Anyone today could live to be 200 and not see and experience half of what this man has. He was born May 14, 1912, and at the age of 91, he is still going strong. Talk about endurance, about transcending time. My hats off to Terkel.
Anyway, to the review, as you might expect if you've read anything else by Terkel, he continues his intriguing and beguiling brand of oral history, transmitted to us through the written word. His many works have touched on many periods, and many themes, but in this book, Terkel examines hope.
More importantly, Terkel in this book views hope as marked by resistance, activism, working to change the world or make it a better place. It is easy in these times to become dismissive... in an interview Terkel said before he wrote the book, he had the feeling that the nation was as apathetic and hopeless as it hadn't been in a long time. To some extent, that rings true.
But this book isn't just a foray into a depressing land with no hopes or prospects. Some of the military personnel have rather bleak things to say about the future, but despair is the flip side of the coin to hope - to talk about one without speaking about the other would be pointless.
The book's framework is this: Terkel examines how people have perservered, lived, strived, propsered, and died throughout recent American history. Famous people. Unknown people. People from all walks of life. Teachers, social workers, and politicians share the stage with unknown alcoholics, refugees, and disease victims.
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40 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Kramer on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Give yourself a treat and savor the gift Studs gave us of the words of those out there fighting the good fight. From Dennis Kucinich to Frances Moore Lappe to Kathy Kelly to John Kenneth Galbraith, the words come from the heart. They tell the stories of their families, describe their work and why they keep at it.
Roberta Lynch,"I remember back to the Harold Washington campaign. I was a lakefront coordinator. I remember these efforts to build black political power in the city. People felt like it was rolling a rock up a hill, and here comes the Harold Washington campaign, and it's like an explosion.
You get the sense that history can surprise us, always. It's those surprises that break through the deadening, stultifying consensus that gives people a sense, Yes! We can."
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Owen on April 12, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Hope Dies Last: Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times by Studs Terkel, The New Press, 2003 p. 326
Studs Terkel lends understanding to what it means to be an American by letting Americans speak. His newest addition in his long and celebrated list of books offers a collection of interviews with hopeful people or "hopeholders", history chroniclers, the celebrated and the un-knows. "In the following pages are portraits of the inheritors of the legacy of those past. They range in age from nonagenarians to young ones in their twenties".
Mr. Terkel is free-thinker. He holds a flame of hope. "As we enter the new millennium, hope appears to be an American attribute that has vanished for many, no matter what their class or condition in life. The official word has never been more arrogantly imposed. Passivity, in the face of such a bold, unabashed show of power from above, appears to be the order of the day. But it ain't necessarily so." His interviewer's selection reflects his viewpoint.
I first read his books to bone up on the art of interviewing. My horizons expanded upon reading interviews with various folks such as World War II heroines and heros, and those that had experienced death close up. Now, I read Studs Terkel books for the joy of learning about whatever he finds of interest. My burning question remain: How does he get people to open up, spill their guts, and let their hearts and human spirits shine through?
His introduction offers answers in his guiding voice. He is someone that's lived a free man's life, met amazing people, done amazing things, stood up for what he believed was right, and he is still going strong. His "voice" is that of a "regular guy".
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Kearney VINE VOICE on November 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
HOPE DIES LAST is an oral history of various personalities collected by renowned social commentator Studs Terkel. Terkel has collected stories from just about every conceivable category of people: teachers, politicians, clergy people, business people, young people, and old people, you name it, the group is probably represented in this book. Each oral history tells the story of someone who has maintained hope in a challenging or difficult moment. The situations vary, but each is meant to help us navigate in these very trying and uncertain days after September 11, 2001.

In his introduction, Terkel says that "Hope never trickles down. It always springs up." This book will certainly help people see that hope does spring up in third world countries, in violent city streets, in classrooms, churches, and just about everywhere else. This book will be helpful for just about anyone, whether facing a challenge or not. Teachers and clergy people will find the book very helpful since so much of the work of educators and members of eth clergy is keeping faith alive.
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