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Customer Review

on July 29, 2009
John Dittmer relates the history and development of the Medical Committee for Human Rights and the involvement of the Committee and its members in not only the civil rights movement, but in every "social justice" movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. His stated intent was to give credit to the medical professionals who put themselves into difficult and sometimes dangerous situations in the interest of advancing medical care to blacks, to the poor, and to anyone deprived of access to care because of his or her status in the community. Unfortunately, despite the author's apparent substantial knowledge of the era, the book is so poorly written that it can only leave the interested reader frustrated.

At the outset, many scenes and individuals were described in a way that made me feel they were being flashed on a screen. I have read a few books about the civil rights movement, but only after I had read about two-thirds of the book did I have a real sense of who were the significant individual participants in the movement. Someone with no prior knowledge of the events of the times would be at a complete loss to understand and follow the narrative.

There are occasional glimpses of how good this book and the telling of this story could be. Chapter 6, The Last March, and Chapter 7, The War at Home, are focused and cohesive. Most of the rest of the book, however, gave the impression of reading newspaper or magazine reports that were thrown together in an attempt to write a book. The writing was anecdotal. Analysis was lacking and there were often sweeping generalizations resulting in unsupported conclusions. Transitions between chapters, and sometimes between paragraphs, were choppy and bordered on the illogical.

For those of us interested in the civil rights movement and social justice issues of the era, the subject the author tries to illuminate holds great interest. Perhaps Dittmer wrote this book in a rush. Certainly his editors did him no favors. The information is there; I would like to see the author "take a Mulligan" and do it over.
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