Hope Dies Last by Studs Terkel
Keeping the Faith in Difficult Times

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Synopsis

The renowned oral historian turns his attention to the aspirations of "the American century."

I feel there's gonna be a change, but we're the ones gonna do it, not the government. With us there's a saying, "La esperenza muera ultima. Hope dies last." You can't lose hope. If you lose hope, you lose everything.—Jessie de la Cruz, retired farm worker

Studs Terkel's marvelous oral histories have hitherto dealt with specifics, as he puts it "the visceral stuff — the job, race, age and death." While Terkel's chosen theme here, the incandescence of hope, might at first appear elusive, it is anything but abstract. For Terkel, hope is born of activism, commitment, and the steely determination to resist.

The spirit of activism has ebbed and flooded through Terkel's venerable life. In the Great Depression of the 1930s he recalls a man swinging from a chandelier at the Astor Hotel shouting for "Social Security!" In the 1960s it was African Americans and students who advocated for equal rights and an end to maladventure overseas. And now, in a new century, young and old are joining forces on the streets to say no to war. The spark of activism is igniting the precious idea of a better world once again.

The interviews in Hope Dies Last constitute an alternative history of the "American century," forming a legacy of the indefatigable spirit that Studs has always embodied, and an inheritance for those who, by taking a stand, are making concrete the dreams of today.

 

About Studs Terkel

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Studs Terkel was an actor, writer, and radio host. He was born Louis Terkel on May 16, 1912 in New York City. He took his name from the James T. Farrell novel, Studs Lonigan. Terkel attended the University of Chicago and graduated with a law degree in 1934. Terkel acted in local stage productions and on radio dramas until he began one of the first television programs, an unscripted show called Studs Place in the early 1950s. In 1952, Terkel began Studs Terkel's Almanac on radio station WFMT in Chicago. Terkel compiled a series of books based on oral histories that defined America in the 20th Century. Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do received a National Book Award nomination in 1975. The Good War: An Oral History of World War II won the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction in 1985. Working was turned into a hit musical in 1978. Terkel was named the Communicator of the Year by the University of Chicago in 1969. He also won a Peabody Award for excellence in journalism in 1980 and the National Book Foundation Medal for contributions to American letters in 1997. He died on October 31, 2008 at the age of 96.
 
Published October 1, 2003 by New Press. 320 pages
Genres: History. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Hope Dies Last

The Guardian

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Hope Dies Last: Making a Difference in an Indifferent World by Studs Terkel Granta £14.99, pp326 Nearly a decade ago, Studs Terkel, at 83, was about to publish what many feared would be his valedictory book.

Aug 22 2004 | Read Full Review of Hope Dies Last: Keeping the F...

Publishers Weekly

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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.

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Star Tribune

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"Careful what you hope for," you imagine Terkel saying, but the best interviewers know when to shut up and listen, and "Hope Dies Last" underscores his role as one of America's best.

Dec 06 2003 | Read Full Review of Hope Dies Last: Keeping the F...

AV Club

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Studs Terkel's last book, 2001's Will The Circle Be Unbroken?, took his usual interview-collection concept in a newly abstract and acutely...

Nov 25 2003 | Read Full Review of Hope Dies Last: Keeping the F...

The New York Review of Books

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Nov 06 2003 | Read Full Review of Hope Dies Last: Keeping the F...

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