A fine account of FDR’s rise to power combined with a cradle-to-grave biography of the man who made it possible.

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FRANK AND AL

FDR, AL SMITH, AND THE UNLIKELY ALLIANCE THAT CREATED THE MODERN DEMOCRATIC PARTY

Two giants of 20th-century American politics receive an insightful dual biography.

Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945) is no stranger to historians, but Politico senior editor Golway (Machine Made: Tammany Hall and the Creation of Modern American Politics, 2014, etc.) wisely wraps matters up after he became president in 1933. Until then, fellow New Yorker Al Smith (1873-1944) was better known. Born on the Lower East Side, Smith struggled financially, but he impressed the local Tammany boss, who sent him to Albany in 1904 as assemblyman. Though initially frustrated by bureaucracy, he hid “his frustration behind a mask of good cheer” and became a leading reformer. Wealthy and bored by practicing law, Roosevelt fell in love with politics. Winning a state Senate seat in 1910, he concentrated on national affairs, supporting Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and earning appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Golway dates the “alliance” to the 1920 Democratic presidential convention, when Smith, then the governor of New York, asked Roosevelt to second his nomination. Quiescent for years after his 1921 paralysis, Roosevelt supported Smith for governor in 1922, 1924, and 1926. Running for president in 1928, Smith convinced Roosevelt to run for governor. Roosevelt’s victory immediately made him a contender for 1932. It also ended their alliance. Crushed by his defeat, Smith felt ignored by the new governor. Detesting Roosevelt’s New Deal, he supported Alfred Landon in 1936 and Wendell Willkie in 1940. Historians, Golway included, agree that Smith was the more forthright, unwilling to sacrifice ideals for political gain. Thus, both men hated Prohibition. Roosevelt gets credit for repeal in 1933 when support had weakened, but he waffled when it would lose votes during the 1920s. Smith never wavered, but it cost him.

A fine account of FDR’s rise to power combined with a cradle-to-grave biography of the man who made it possible.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08964-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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UNTAMED

More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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