A welcome, insightful addition to the literature surrounding FDR.

BECOMING FDR

THE PERSONAL CRISIS THAT MADE A PRESIDENT

A capable account of a specific period in the life of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945).

Political historian Darman opens his study of FDR in 1920, when he was plotting a bid to become the vice presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, knowing that he lacked the experience and support to become the top dog but also that “the bottom of the ticket was another matter altogether.” Alas, even though FDR labored valiantly “to convince the country that, despite their eight years in power, the Democrats were the party of the future, not the past,” the Republicans won by a landslide. Roosevelt regarded the race and, it seems, himself as miserable failures, but his attention would soon be fixed on another problem, for within a year he would be diagnosed with polio. By Darman’s account, it was remaking himself over the seven years following contracting the virus that shaped Roosevelt into the politician we think of today. For good or bad, Roosevelt was secretive about the illness, and even as president, he quietly made it known that news photographs of himself with wheelchair or walker were not wanted. When he returned to political life, Roosevelt had to be carried to the stage, but even there he hid himself behind the curtain and made his way to the lectern on his own. This was both deceptive and close to heroic, and “Franklin never let on how grueling it all was simply to make it through the day.” The torments continued throughout his four terms as president, during which he was often a visitor to the curative waters of Warm Springs, Georgia, where he died. Usefully, Darman writes that even though FDR was “a privileged child of the American aris­tocracy…years of illness and convalescence had taught him what it felt like to be forgotten, humiliated, and overlooked as unim­portant.”

A welcome, insightful addition to the literature surrounding FDR.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4000-6707-7

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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A lucid, astute text that unpacks the myths of Russian history to help explain present-day motivations and actions.

THE STORY OF RUSSIA

An expert on Russia delivers a crucially relevant study of a country that has been continuously “subjected to the vicissitudes of ruling ideologies.”

Wolfson History Prize winner Figes, one of the world’s leading authorities on Russian history and culture, shows how, over centuries, Russian autocrats have manipulated intertwined layers of mythology and history to suit their political and imperial purposes. Regarding current affairs, the author argues convincingly that to understand Putin’s aggressive behavior toward Ukraine and other neighboring nations, it is essential to grasp how Russia has come to see itself within the global order, especially in Asia and Europe. Figes emphasizes the intensive push and pull between concepts of East and West since the dubious founding of Kievan Rus, “the first Russian state,” circa 980. Russia’s geography meant it had few natural boundaries and was vulnerable to invasion—e.g., by the Mongols—and its mere size often required strong, central military control. It was in Moscow’s interests to increase its territorial boundaries and keep its neighbors weak, a strategy still seen today. Figes explores the growth of the “patrimonial autocracy” and examines how much of the mechanics of the country’s autocracy, bureaucracy, military structure, oligarchy, and corruption were inherited from three centuries of Mongol rule. From Peter the Great to Catherine the Great to Alexander II (the reformer who freed the serfs) and through the Bolsheviks to Stalin: In most cases, everything belonged to the state, and there were few societal institutions to check that power. “This imbalance—between a dominating state and a weak society—has shaped the course of Russian history,” writes the author in a meaningful, definitive statement. Today, Putin repudiates any hint of Westernizing influences (Peter the Great) while elevating the Eastern (Kievan Rus, the Orthodox Church). In that, he is reminiscent of Stalin, who recognized the need for patriotic fervor and national myths and symbols to unite and ensure the oppression of the masses.

A lucid, astute text that unpacks the myths of Russian history to help explain present-day motivations and actions.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2507-9689-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Metropolitan/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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