Finkelstein, Norman H. 1941- (Norman Henry Finkelstein)
Finkelstein, Norman H. 1941- (Norman Henry Finkelstein)
Born November 10, 1941, in Chelsea, MA; son of Sydney and Mollie Finkelstein; married Rosalind Brandt (an electrologist), July 4, 1967; children: Jeffrey, Robert, Risa. Education: Hebrew College, B.J.Ed., 1961, M.A., 1986; Boston University, B.S., 1963, Ed.M., 1964, C.A.G.S., 1983. Religion: Jewish.
Home—Framingham, MA. Office—Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Rd., Newton Center, MA 02459. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, librarian, educator. Brookline Public Schools, Brookline, MA, library media specialist, 1970-2005; retired, 2005. Hebrew College, Brookline, part-time instructor, beginning 1982; Camp Yavneh, teacher and educational director, summers, 1982-89; Massachusetts Corporation for Educational Telecommunications, host of Thumbs Up—Thumbs Down (television program on books and media for teachers and librarians), 1990-95.
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, Foundation for Children's Books (vice president), American Library Association, Association of Jewish Libraries, Authors Guild, Authors League of America, Massachusetts School Library Media Association, Phi Delta Kappa, Wayfarer's Club.
Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1980; Holzman Award, Hebrew College, 1985, for Remember Not to Forget: A Memory of the Holocaust; grants from Brookline Foundation and John F. Kennedy Presidential Library Foundation grant, both 1987; fellow, Council for Basic Education fellowship, 1992; grant from Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library, 1996; Golden Kite Honor Book, Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, 1997, for With Heroic Truth: The Life of Edward R. Murrow; National Jewish Book Award, 1998, for Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle; National Jewish Book Award, 2002, for Forged in Freedom: Shaping the Jewish-American Experience.Citations for children's book of the year, Child Study Committee, Bank Street College, 1985, for Remember Not to Forget, and for Theodor Herzl: Architect of a Nation; citations for notable children's trade book in the field of social studies, National Council for the Social Studies and Children's Book Council, 1989, for The Other 1492: Jewish Settlement in the New World, 1992, for Captain of Innocence: France and the Dreyfus Affair, 1998, for With Heroic Truth, and 2000, for The Way Things Never Were: The Truth about the "Good Old Days"; Honor Book citations, Society of School Librarians International, 1997, for With Heroic Truth, and 2000, for The Way Things Never Were; books for the teen age selections, New York Public Library, for Captain of Innocence, 1998, for With Heroic Truth, and 2000, for The Way Things Never Were.
Remember Not to Forget: A Memory of the Holocaust, illustrated by Lois Hokenson and Lars Hokenson, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1984, Mulberry Press (New York, NY), 1994, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 2004.
Theodor Herzl: Architect of a Nation, Franklin Watts (New York, NY), 1985, Lerner Publications Co. (Minneapolis, MN), 1991.
The Emperor General: A Biography of Douglas MacArthur, Dillon Press (New York, NY), 1989.
The Other 1492: Jewish Settlement in the New World, Scribner (New York, NY), 1989.
Captain of Innocence: France and the Dreyfus Affair, Putnam (New York, NY), 1991.
Sounds in the Air: Radio's Golden Age, Scribner (New York, NY), 1993.
Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles: The Cuban Missile Crisis, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1994.
Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 1997.
With Heroic Truth: The Life of Edward R. Murrow, Clarion Books (New York, NY), 1997.
Friends Indeed: The Special Relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Millbrook Press (Brookfield, CT), 1998.
The Way Things Never Were: The Truth about the "Good Old Days," Atheneum (New York, NY), 1999.
Forged in Freedom: Shaping the Jewish-American Experience, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
Ariel Sharon, Lerner Publication Group (Minneapolis, MN), 2005.
American Jewish History: A JPS Guide, Jewish Publication Society (Philadelphia, PA), 2007.
Plastics, Marshall Cavendish Benchmark (New York, NY), 2007.
Three Across: The Great Transatlantic Air Race of 1927, Calkins Creek (Honesdale, PA), 2008.
Contributor to professional journals. Series editor, "JPS Guides," Jewish Publication Society.
Author and former children's librarian Norman H. Finkelstein has been fascinated with current events and politics since he was a young boy. As a reader of books, he once said that "fun reading for me is still a good book on politics, diplomacy, or current issues." As a writer, his personal interests dictate his choice of topics. Although many of his books are on Jewish history and biography, Finkelstein believes in recognizing "the struggles and contributions of all people who are part of American society." He enjoys researching his books even more than putting words on paper. The author has strong opinions about children's nonfiction, claiming in an interview with Boston Sunday Globe contributor Sean Smith that "young people should be encouraged to enjoy reading for its own sake," and that "nonfiction is the overlooked area of children's literature." Finkelstein's work as a young adult and children's librarian helps him to understand how children think. Crucial in successful writing for children are the following, according to the author: "You can't talk down to them, you don't take anything for granted as far as what they know, and yet you have to present facts with just enough supplementary, anecdotal stuff to make it interesting."
Finkelstein's first book, Remember Not to Forget: A Memory of the Holocaust, was an award winner. The realization that there was a lack of literature on the Holocaust for young adults inspired the author to begin work on the book, which covers the history of Jewish persecution, beginning in the year A.D. 70 and culminating with the murder of six million Jews during the regime of German dictator Adolf Hitler in the twentieth century. In Theodor Herzl: Architect of a Nation, Finkelstein writes about a pivotal early-twentieth-century Zionist leader. Herzl laid the foundation for what later became the state of Israel. In what Alice Stern, writing in Voice of Youth Advocates, called a "well written, readable and interesting" biography, Finkelstein portrays Herzl as both an arrogant young man and a selfless leader devoted to the cause of Zionism, and effectively depicts the anti-Semitism of the day.
In The Other 1492: Jewish Settlement in the New World, Finkelstein covers the expulsion of the Jews from Spain during the time of Columbus. Although the author covers extensive material, Betsy Hearne, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, praised Finkelstein's writing as "clear, smooth, and well organized." The "accounts of mob persecution, forced conversion and Inquisition tragedies [are] carefully researched and never overdramatic," Hearne concluded. Captain of Innocence: France and the Dreyfus Affair offers a look at a famous nineteenth-century espionage case that was motivated by anti-Semitism. Dreyfus, after being accused of espionage, was treated terribly for the next four and one-half years, imprisoned, and court-martialed in a secretive proceeding. Finkelstein places "the reader at the scene wherever possible," according to a contributor to Publishers Weekly. Margaret A. Bush of Horn Book called Captain of Innocence a "capably narrated account, which illuminates history and raises awareness about injustice and the morality of individuals and nations."
Finkelstein writes about the advent of the radio in Sounds in the Air: Radio's Golden Age. The author recounts how the popularity of radio mushroomed in the 1920s and eventually replaced vaudeville stage performances as America's preferred source of entertainment. Soon, the radio was host to comedy shows, soap operas, and shows for children, as well as news programs, of which Edward R. Murrow's reports from the front during World War II are considered the hallmark. Finkelstein describes how advertising found a place on radio and compares radio's fast rise to the later rise of television. Judie Porter, writing in School Library Journal, called Finkelstein's account of milestones such as the first advertisements "interesting"; similarly, Booklist reviewer Carolyn Phelan noted that the author's account of early advertising "might produce nostalgia even among those too young to have heard the shows." A Horn Book reviewer concluded that this "solid documentary never loses sight of the excitement generated by this now commonplace medium."
In Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles: The Cuban Missile Crisis, the author recounts the events leading up to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Finkelstein sets the stage for the crisis by explaining the Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union through the Soviet ally, Cuba. "Behind-the-scenes deliberations and strategizing are dramatically related as events unfold," remarked Elizabeth S. Watson in Horn Book. Much of the information the author presents was classified until the latter part of the twentieth century, and significantly, Finkelstein carefully details the historical context, "clarifying why the crisis was important and what lessons were learned," according to a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. A timeline is provided, as well as a description of the major personalities and black-and-white photographs. "This book dramatically sketches a crucial slice of twentieth-century history," concluded Jack Forman in School Library Journal. Likewise, Chris Sherman suggested in Booklist that "young adult readers who enjoy suspense stories will be hard-pressed to find a more dramatic, well-written account" of these pivotal events.
Finkelstein outlines the life of an important figure in the history of American journalism in With Heroic Truth: The Life of Edward R. Murrow. Murrow was known for taking courageous stands on controversial subjects; for example, his comments about Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee almost lost him his passport. Finkelstein's primary source material includes transcripts of Murrow's radio and television broadcasts, which help him create "a sharp, clear portrait of one of the twentieth-century's great journalists," according to David A. Lindsey, writing in School Library Journal. Ilene Cooper of Booklist called With Heroic Truth "a fresh, fascinating subject for biography shelves." Although Susan S. Verner suggested in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books that a book on radio might be difficult to sell to the "CNN generation," she noted that "budding journalists will take comfort from Murrow's courage and resourcefulness."
The relationship between Jews and African Americans is examined in Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle. Finkelstein points out parallels in the histories of these groups—in the late 1800s, for example, both groups faced racism and abuse. The author also describes institutions that have been put into place to strengthen relationships between the two groups. In The Way Things Never Were: The Truth about the "Good Old Days," Finkelstein attempts to debunk the popular view of the 1950s and 1960s as a golden era in American life. The author presents myths such as the idea that children were healthier during that era, and by way of refutation cites the polio epidemic of the 1950s, which kept children out of public swimming pools and away from crowds for fear of contagion. The book is heavily illustrated with photographs, and the author's breezy, optimistic attitude toward American history will appeal to young adults, according to Hazel Rochman in Booklist. Elizabeth Bush, writing in the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, however, observed that "in dispelling one set of myths [Finkelstein] inadvertently introduces another, portraying current social conditions as a comparative Camelot." But Cindy Darling Codell, writing in School Library Journal, wrote that, "laced with lots of documented information, this concise social history is enticing and accessible."
In Friends Indeed: The Special Relationship between the U.S. and Israel, Finkelstein's ability to write clearly and with interest about history and politics is exemplified once again, according to Malka Keck in School Library Journal. This book outlines Israel's turbulent history, focusing on the era since its modern creation in 1958, and dramatizes its special relationship with the United States through lively anecdotes.
The history and role of Jews in the United States is recounted in Forged in Freedom: Shaping the Jewish American Experience. The text is organized chronologically and delves into the history of Jews and how they have influenced American culture. Topics encompass Jews in politics, religion, education, and entertainment, their struggle for civil rights, and other issues of major relevance to the American Jewish community. Although the book touches on several topics, Linda Silver of Jewish Book World praised Finkelstein's "straightforward and very lucid" writing style while noting that the "selection of detail is cogent and interesting."
Finkelstein has also written a biography of the controversial Israeli leader with his 2005 Ariel Sharon, and has turned his attention to invention and manufacturing with his 2007 Plastics. Additionally, he has served as a series editor for the "JPS Guides," from the Jewish Publication Society. He penned the third series title, American Jewish History: A JPS Guide, a "colorful, concise" history, according to a reviewer for the Internet Bookwatch. In the book Finkelstein covers over three centuries of Jewish history in America, divided into six different epochs. He traces the history from the early settlers through the era of huge immigration in which Jews from Europe poured into American cities, and into the modern day when Jewish people are involved in every aspect of American life, from politics and business to the arts and scholarship. The book is illustrated with seventy maps, charts, and pictures, and has numerous mini-biographies and feature boxes, making it "the perfect introductory survey of American Jewish history," according to another reviewer for the Internet Bookwatch. Similarly, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly termed American Jewish History "a useful introductory guide."
Finkelstein once commented: "My first book appeared in 1985—after twenty-six rejections…. It's been an amazing experience. My books have all been biographical or historical. The topics are eclectic, from the Holocaust and Israeli-American relations to the Golden Age of Radio and the Cuban Missile Crisis. I've been fortunate. Each of my books has allowed me to pursue a personal interest. As I immerse myself in the subject matter at hand, I sometimes feel as if I'm becoming the world's greatest expert on the topic.
"Readers often want to know what keeps me going as a writer. When I asked the late CBS correspondent Charles Kuralt to share a memory of Edward R. Murrow, about whom I was writing a biography, Kuralt responded: ‘Beginners need confidence; of course, I never had the nerve to ask Murrow for advice directly, but if I had, I believe he would have said, Become good at what you do, and everything else will take care of itself.’ I couldn't have said it better myself. I would, however, add two more words, persistence and patience.
"When I speak at schools, I always bring copies of my copy edited manuscripts with the crossing-outs, editor notes, and grammatical corrections. This always impresses my young readers, who sometimes imagine that books are created full-blown out of a writer's mind.
"Along with my writing career, I was also a public school librarian—the best job in any school. I got to admire and read new books and witness my students' reactions to what they read. The library is the perfect laboratory for any writer."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 15, 1992, Ellen Mandel, review of Theodor Herzl: Architect of a Nation, p. 1517; June 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of Sounds in the Air: Radio's Golden Age, p. 1833; July, 1994, Chris Sherman, review of Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles: The Cuban Missile Crisis, p. 1943; June 1, 1997, Ilene Cooper, review of With Heroic Truth: The Life of Edward R. Murrow, p. 1671; August, 1998, Ellen Mandel, review of Friends Indeed: The Special Relationship between the U.S. and Israel, p. 1982; September 1, 1999, Hazel Rochman, review of The Way Things Never Were: The Truth about the "Good Old Days," p. 77; August, 2002, Hazel Rochman, review of Forged in Freedom: Shaping the Jewish-American Experience, p. 1943.
Book Report, May-June, 1994, Mary Mueller, review of Sounds in the Air, p. 53; November-December, 1994, Pam Whitehead, review of Thirteen Days/ Ninety Miles, p. 55; September-October, 1997, Marilyn Makowski Heath, review of With Heroic Truth, p. 47.
Boston Sunday Globe, June 20, 1993, Sean Smith, interview with Norman Finkelstein, pp. 37, 41.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May, 1985, review of Theodor Herzl, p. 164; December, 1989, Betsy Hearne, review of The Other 1492: Jewish Settlement in the New World, p. 83; June, 1997, Susan S. Verner, review of With Heroic Truth, p. 357; September, 1999, Elizabeth Bush, review of The Way Things Never Were, p. 10.
Horn Book, November-December, 1991, Margaret A. Bush, review of Captain of Innocence: France and the Dreyfus Affair, p. 753; September-October, 1993, Margaret A. Bush, review of Sounds in the Air, pp. 618-620; September-October, 1994, Elizabeth S. Watson, review of Thirteen Days/ Ninety Miles, pp. 605-606.
Horn Book Guide, spring, 1998, Peter D. Sierta, review of Heeding the Call: Jewish Voices in America's Civil Rights Struggle, p. 101; fall, 1998, Jackie C. Horne, review of Friends Indeed, p. 423.
Internet Bookwatch, June, 2007, review of American Jewish History: A JPS Guide; July, 2007, review of American Jewish History.
Jewish Book World, Linda Silver, review of Forged in Freedom.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 1993, review of Sounds in the Air, p. 597; June 15, 1994, review of Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles, p. 844; April 15, 1997, review of With Heroic Truth, p. 640.
New York Times Book Review, May 16, 1999, Christine Stansell, "Those Weren't the Days," p. 24.
Publishers Weekly, November 1, 1991, review of Captain of Innocence, p. 82; May 31, 1999, review of The Way Things Never Were, p. 95; February 12, 2007, review of American Jewish History, p. 77.
School Library Journal, September, 1985, Gerda Haas, review of Remember Not to Forget: A Memory of the Holocaust, p. 132; January, 1988, Jack Forman, review of Theodor Herzl, p. 91; April, 1989, Eldon Younce, review of The Emperor General: A Biography of Douglas MacArthur, p. 111; January, 1990, Susan Kaminow, review of Captain of Innocence, p. 111; July, 1993, Judie Porter, review of Sounds in the Air, p. 104; June, 1994, Jack Forman, review of Thirteen Days/Ninety Miles, p. 154; July, 1997, David A. Lindsey, review of With Heroic Truth, p. 102; June, 1998, Malka Keck, review of Friends Indeed, p. 158; July, 1999, Cindy Darling Codell, review of The Way Things Never Were, p. 106.
Television Quarterly, spring, 1997, Fritz Jacobi, review of With Heroic Truth, p. 92.
Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1988, Alice Stern, review of Theodor Herzl, p. 100.
BookPage,http://www.bookpage.com/ (December 29, 1999), Jamie McAlister, review of The Way Things Never Were.
Forward Online,http://www.forward.com/ (May 28, 2004), Nathaniel Popper, "Two Finkelsteins Share a Name but Not a Political Perspective."
Jewish Publication Society Web site,http://www.jewishpub.org/ (November 12, 2007), "About the Author: Norman H. Finkelstein."
Norman H. Finkelstein Home Page,http://www.normfinkelstein.com (November 12, 2007).