A winning concluding volume in a series that does for Eleanor Roosevelt what Robert Caro has done for Lyndon Johnson.

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ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, VOLUME 3

THE WAR YEARS AND AFTER, 1939-1962

Having already devoted more than 1,200 pages to the extraordinary life of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) in two previous installments, the skilled biographer offers the final volume.

Although the third book focuses on the period from 1939 to 1945, Cook (History/John Jay Coll., Graduate Center, CUNY; Eleanor Roosevelt: Volume 2, The Defining Years, 1933-1938, 1999, etc.) also covers the remainder of Roosevelt's meaningful accomplishments and personal relationships until her death in 1962. No hagiographer, the author presents Roosevelt's strained personal relationships, occasional passive-aggressive behavior, moral equivocations due to electoral politics, and other less-than-admirable qualities. Overall, though, Cook shows Roosevelt as empathetic to the less fortunate in both America and overseas, relentlessly optimistic about eventually achieving world peace, courageous in the face of personal danger, and almost superhumanly energetic until her final year. What may resonate most for contemporary readers is Roosevelt's crusade for greater racial harmony. She did not merely offer lip service to racial equality; she modeled it in her friendships and in the issues she promoted to Congress and her husband, despite widespread discrimination against blacks that showed no signs of abating. Cook notes that while outlining the current volume, she chose to develop the metatheme of the first lady obsessing about "race and rescue." Because most of the narrative unfolds during World War II, Cook amply examines Eleanor's efforts to influence the decisions of her husband. The president and Eleanor had to negotiate a rocky personal relationship due to his philandering and her unusual romantic liaisons, but as partners in politics, the mutual respect between them never wavered. The final pages about Eleanor’s postwar activities seem overly telescoped, but that’s a minor quibble in this outstanding work of biography. Cook makes a strong case that her subject is the most influential first lady in American history and even the most influential woman in world affairs since at least 1900.

A winning concluding volume in a series that does for Eleanor Roosevelt what Robert Caro has done for Lyndon Johnson.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-02395-0

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME

NOTES ON THE FIRST 150 YEARS IN AMERICA

The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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