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A warts-and-all biography of an important figure.

An exhaustive study of the life and work of iconic labor leader Cesar Chavez (1927–1993).

In a follow-up to her previous book about the United Farm Workers (The Union of their Dreams, 2009), former Newsday and Los Angeles Times editor Pawel examines Chavez's transformation from a dedicated advocate for the rights of the poor and exploited to a corrupt leader charged with misappropriating funds and dictatorial rule over the union he founded. The author shows that Chavez was a man of his times. Despite his tarred reputation as a union leader, his legend still inspires young Hispanic workers with his slogan, “Si se puede”—yes, it can be done. The child of itinerant farm laborers who was forced to drop out of school to work in the fields, Chavez found few opportunities after his return home after service in the military. Eventually, he found work in the lumberyards. In Delano, Calif., his hometown, Mexican-Americans were at the bottom of the social pyramid. Chavez joined the Community Service Organization in Los Angeles and quickly became a leading member. The CSO led a voter registration drive, ran English classes and set up a credit union. Organized by a priest and a local community worker, it was a chapter of the national network of community organizations launched by Saul Alinsky. When their voter registration campaign stalled, Chavez, with Alinsky’s backing, founded the UFW and began a campaign to organize grape pickers after the grape growers moved to import undocumented Mexican workers and force down wages. Chavez recruited outside support from the broader liberal community and students and launched nationwide boycotts. As a result, writes Pawel, “Mexican Americans once shut out of power…[have] become the establishment in venues that had once been bastions of Anglo power.”

A warts-and-all biography of an important figure.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60819-710-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor...

The excruciating story of a young man on a quest for knowledge and experience, a search that eventually cooked his goose, told with the flair of a seasoned investigative reporter by Outside magazine contributing editor Krakauer (Eiger Dreams, 1990). 

Chris McCandless loved the road, the unadorned life, the Tolstoyan call to asceticism. After graduating college, he took off on another of his long destinationless journeys, this time cutting all contact with his family and changing his name to Alex Supertramp. He was a gent of strong opinions, and he shared them with those he met: "You must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life''; "be nomadic.'' Ultimately, in 1992, his terms got him into mortal trouble when he ran up against something—the Alaskan wild—that didn't give a hoot about Supertramp's worldview; his decomposed corpse was found 16 weeks after he entered the bush. Many people felt McCandless was just a hubris-laden jerk with a death wish (he had discarded his map before going into the wild and brought no food but a bag of rice). Krakauer thought not. Admitting an interest that bordered on obsession, he dug deep into McCandless's life. He found a willful, reckless, moody boyhood; an ugly little secret that sundered the relationship between father and son; a moral absolutism that agitated the young man's soul and drove him to extremes; but he was no more a nutcase than other pilgrims. Writing in supple, electric prose, Krakauer tries to make sense of McCandless (while scrupulously avoiding off-the-rack psychoanalysis): his risky behavior and the rites associated with it, his asceticism, his love of wide open spaces, the flights of his soul.

A wonderful page-turner written with humility, immediacy, and great style. Nothing came cheap and easy to McCandless, nor will it to readers of Krakauer's narrative. (4 maps) (First printing of 35,000; author tour)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-42850-X

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Villard

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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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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