Informative and well-researched, Kasson’s work offers insight into one of Hollywood’s most beloved entertainers, as well as...

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THE LITTLE GIRL WHO FOUGHT THE GREAT DEPRESSION

SHIRLEY TEMPLE AND 1930S AMERICA

A cultural historian examines how the films of Shirley Temple (1928–2014) worked in tandem with New Deal politics to help Americans overcome the Great Depression.

The images most associated with the 1930s bear witness to the hardships average Americans faced. But the ones most popular during this time bore the radiant face of child actress Temple. In this study, Kasson (History and American Studies/Univ. of North Carolina; Houdini, Tarzan, and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America, 2001, etc.) argues that Temple’s smile and sunny personality helped bring Franklin Roosevelt’s “politics of cheer” to the forefront of national consciousness while providing Americans with much-needed emotional solace. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation, which made government assistance available to “the forgotten man at the bottom of the economic pyramid,” only went so far. Consumer confidence, which implied faith in the future, also had to be restored to ensure the return of prosperity. Roosevelt accomplished part of this task through the vigorously cheerful outlook he projected in his political addresses. From 1934 to 1940, Temple captivated movie-going audiences all over the United States and the world with her ability to heal broken hearts with her “inexhaustible fund of optimism.” Through her extraordinary dance partnership with black entertainer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Temple also called attention to the problem of race in both Hollywood and the United States while bringing hope to African-Americans, who had suffered even more than whites during the Depression. The cult of personality that developed around Temple even helped the struggling economy. At the height of the young star’s popularity, fans spent millions of dollars on Temple memorabilia.

Informative and well-researched, Kasson’s work offers insight into one of Hollywood’s most beloved entertainers, as well as the fascinating connection between politics and entertainment.

Pub Date: April 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-393-24079-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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

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