A diverse gallery of record breakers, envelope pushers, and activists, prominent or otherwise.
Journalist Megdal offers figures from, mostly, the present or recent past, each born in or at least loosely associated with a particular state. His selections show a distinct slant toward leftist reformers or people involved in social or environmental causes. Some, notably Muhammad Ali (Kentucky), Rachel Carson (Pennsylvania), and Jackie Robinson (Georgia), are necessary fixtures on any such roster, but many—for example, Joe Biden (Delaware), Social Democrat Michael Harrington (Missouri), and the All-American Red Heads (Arkansas), an early women’s basketball team—seem more personal choices. No small number are just odd, such as William Allen White, a Kansas newspaper publisher billed as “the figure small town America needs today,” and Marjorie van Vliet (Rhode Island), who tried to fly to all the lower 48 state capitols for peace in 1990 but died in a crash before reaching the final one. The trailblazers are presented on hard-to-parse spreads composed of kaleidoscopically contrasting color blocks, each containing a few lines of narrative, a quote, or a stylized illustration done in a flat, serigraphic style. Along with occasional snort-inducing errors (though none so hilarious as a map with LBJ’s home state, Texas, labeled “Michigan”), a quirky company of achievers that includes 22 figures of Latinx, Native, or African American descent, and, counting the Red Heads, more women than men, will greet readers willing to stay the course. Shorter profiles of 16 more luminaries at the end expand the roster.
Refreshingly unpredictable, if remarkably sloppy, opinionated, and a chancy choice for role models. (index) (Collective biography. 9-11)