An engaging account that explores Franklin and the Somersettcase.

SOMERSETT

OR WHY AND HOW BENJAMIN FRANKLIN ORCHESTRATED THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION

A history book examines the life of Benjamin Franklin with an emphasis on an anti-slavery case.

A practicing surgeon, Goodrich is passionate about history. But despite being an avid reader of history books, it was not until later in life that the author stumbled on the existence of the British anti-slavery case Somersett v. Steuart. Like most American schoolchildren, Goodrich had long been intimately familiar with the role of Boston in the origins of the Revolutionary War. While stories of “taxation without representation,” tea parties, and the Boston Massacre were well known, they did little to explain why so many Southern slave owners—George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, for example—emerged alongside Bostonians as patriots. To the author, the 1772 Somersettcase became central to his understanding of the complexities of the American Revolution, as it exposed Southern fears of British abolitionism as well as inspiring a new wave of anti-slavery sentiments among patriots predisposed to the revolutionary “freedom” rhetoric. The book’s focus on Franklin, a onetime slave owner whose last public writing condemned slavery as antithetical to American values, is fitting. In concise, crisp chapters, the volume provides both an overview of Franklin’s life and his relationship to a larger network of Colonial and early republic figures. It is particularly adept at weaving Franklin’s personal story within the grand scheme of 18th-century international politics. The work’s strong point is a 50-page interlude halfway through that provides a comprehensive history of the Somersett case. (In a landmark ruling, an English court held that slaves were not chattel.) Though academic historians will note that the book does not add a new interpretive framework to understanding the Revolution or Franklin, Goodrich offers general readers an engrossing, well-written narrative history full of rich details. The volume’s use of dialogue as a means to advance the story may be ahistorical, but it is nevertheless fair to the memoirs and primary source documents the author relied on to build his narrative. The work also contains a remarkably thorough, annotated bibliography that delivers valuable commentary on primary and secondary sources related to Franklin, the Revolution, and the anti-slavery movement.

An engaging account that explores Franklin and the Somersettcase. (author bio, bibliography)

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 374

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2020

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A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

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ELEANOR

A LIFE

A comprehensive exploration of one of the most influential women of the last century.

The accomplishments of Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) were widespread and substantial, and her trailblazing actions in support of social justice and global peace resonate powerfully in our current moment. Her remarkable life has been extensively documented in a host of acclaimed biographies, including Blanche Wiesen Cook’s excellent three-volume life. Eleanor was also a highly prolific writer in her own right; through memoirs, essays, and letters, she continuously documented experiences and advancing ideas. In the most expansive one-volume portrait to date, Michaelis offers a fresh perspective on some well-worn territory—e.g., Eleanor’s unconventional marriage to Franklin and her progressively charged relationships with men and women, including her intimacy with newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. The author paints a compelling portrait of Eleanor’s life as an evolving journey of transformation, lingering on the significant episodes to shed nuance on her circumstances and the players involved. Eleanor’s privileged yet dysfunctional childhood was marked by the erratic behavior and early deaths of her flighty, alcoholic father and socially absorbed mother, and she was left to shuttle among equally neglectful relatives. During her young adulthood, her instinctual need to be useful and do good work attracted the attention of notable mentors, each serving to boost her confidence and fine-tune her political and social convictions, shaping her expanding consciousness. As in his acclaimed biography of Charles Schulz, Michaelis displays his nimble storytelling skills, smoothly tracking Eleanor’s ascension from wife and mother to her powerfully influential and controversial role as first lady and continued leadership and activist efforts beyond. Throughout, the author lucidly illuminates the essence of her thinking and objectives. “As Eleanor’s activism evolved,” writes Michaelis, “she did not see herself reaching to solve social problems so much as engaging with individuals to unravel discontinuities between the old order and modernity.”

A well-documented and enlightened portrait of Eleanor Roosevelt for our times.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9201-6

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

THE BASEBALL 100

Longtime sports journalist Posnanski takes on a project fraught with the possibilities of controversy: ranking the 100 best baseball players of all time.

It would steal the author’s thunder to reveal his No. 1. However, writing about that player, Posnanski notes, “the greatest baseball player is the one who lifts you higher and makes you feel exactly like you did when you fell in love with this crazy game in the first place.” Working backward, his last-but-not-least place is occupied by Japanese outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, whose valiant hitting rivaled Pete Rose’s, mostly a base at a time. As for Rose, who comes in at No. 60, Posnanski writes, “here’s something people don’t often say about the young Pete Rose, but it’s true: The guy was breathtakingly fast.” Thus, in his first pro season, Rose stole 30 bases and hit 30 triples. That he was somewhat of a lout is noted but exaggerated. Posnanski skillfully weaves statistics into the narrative without spilling into geekdom, and he searches baseball history for his candidate pool while combing the records for just the right datum or quote: No. 10 Satchel Paige on No. 15 Josh Gibson: “You look for his weakness, and while you’re looking for it he’s liable to hit 45 home runs.” Several themes emerge, one being racial injustice. As Posnanski notes of “the greatest Negro Leagues players....people tend to talk about them as if there is some doubt about their greatness.” There’s not, as No. 94, Roy Campanella, among many others, illustrates. He was Sicilian, yes, but also Black, then reason enough to banish him to the minors until finally calling him up in 1948. Another significant theme is the importance of fathers in shaping players, from Mickey Mantle to Cal Ripken and even Rose. Posnanski’s account of how the Cy Young Award came about is alone worth the price of admission.

Red meat, and mighty tasty at that, for baseball fans with an appreciation for the past and power of the game.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982180-58-4

Page Count: 880

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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