A well-delineated portrait of an accomplished leader.

Los Angeles Times reporter, columnist, and editor Newton brings his deep knowledge of California politics to an engaging, sympathetic biography of the state’s 34th and 39th governor, Jerry Brown (b. 1938).

Drawing on abundant media coverage, archival sources, and interviews with key figures, including Brown himself, the author, who has written biographies of Earl Warren and Dwight Eisenhower, recounts the career of an unconventional, influential political figure. The son of politician Pat Brown, Jerry entered a Jesuit seminary in 1955 to study for the priesthood. He left after a few years, bristling under the “rules of obedience.” He enrolled at the University of California, where an activist counterculture swirled around him, inspiring him “to bring the liturgical Catholicism of his training” and his “searching, restless intellect” to addressing real-world problems. After graduating from Yale Law School, he returned to California to work in politics. First elected to the Los Angeles School Board, in 1970, he campaigned as a reformer for secretary of state, winning by a small margin. A run for governor followed, and in 1974, after a narrow victory, he ascended to the State House, promising “energy, youth, clean and constructive government.” Although supporters praised the “rambunctious, ambitious and unorthodox aspects” of his personality, his popularity waned. After a second term, Brown reflected, “I believe the people of California would like a respite from me. And in some ways, I would like a respite from them.” He lost a Senate race, failed three times to win nomination for president, and took a few years for introspection before staging a comeback, facing down 10 opponents to win election as mayor of the benighted city of Oakland. What he learned from being mayor, he admitted, shaped his return to the governorship in 2011. He was older and, he believed, wiser than he had been decades earlier. Climate change became his overriding issue, for which he earned accolades at home and abroad. Newton follows all of Brown’s ups and downs in a fluid, highly readable biography.

A well-delineated portrait of an accomplished leader.

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-39246-4

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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