THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST/ SAMANTHA POWER/ DIPLOMACY MATTERS

I just completed former UN Ambassador Samantha Power’s memoir THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST. She is also the author of A Problem from Hell, America and the Age of Genocide which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Her latest book is extremely timely in light of the current focus on diplomacy as the result of the Trump impeachment inquiry. It’s insight  during Power’s earlier career as a reporter in Bosnia has direct ties to what is currently happening to the Kurds in Syria.

THE EDUCATION OF AN IDEALIST is a deep dive into foreign policy during the Obama Administration and how diplomacy and the UN functions.  Power writes, It is true that the foundation of US leadership abroad is the strength of our democracy at home. But it is also indisputable that the policies we pursue overseas can have huge effects-good and bad-on our daily lives.

Let me hasten to add that Power is remarkably candid in this memoir. She came to America with her divorced mother as an immigrant from Ireland. She prospered, became an acclaimed reporter starting from the ground up filing stories on spec from the war zone in Bosnia. That background led her to serving in the Obama administration and ultimately being appointed and con firmed to the UN Ambassadorship. In light of current events the book is extremely relevant as evidenced in this Power quote. The insistence of diplomats to go on serving their country, even when being ignored and insulted, because they know that our nation is bigger than any one leader. Prescient!

Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin says it best.  Samantha Power’s captivating memoir is a rare and intimate revelation of the inner workings of international diplomacy as well as a heartwarming beacon of a book for young women and men everywhere.

 

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING/DELIA OWENS

Readers of this blog know that there is much emphasis  on biography and non-fiction here. When I was given a copy of WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING BY DELIA OWENS my response was immediate. ” Thanks, I am overdue for a good novel.”

Little wonder this book has been on The NYT Best Seller list for over a year.  Although a late comer for me, this novel done so, is a most pleasurable page turning read.   If you haven’t already go for it.  The book will not disappoint.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS/ PROPHET OF FREEDOM

FREDERICK DOUGLASS/ Prophet of Freedom by Yale University Professor David W. Blight is a definitive insight into slavery, the abolitionist movement, The Civil War, Reconstruction and Jim Crow.  Moreover, this essential biography delivers a remarkable look into the personal life and character of Frederick Douglass, the remarkable man and his devotion to humanity.  This in depth work by Blight is an education, and as I have previously referenced in other great works of biography, every single word printed upon the 764 pages counts. There is little wonder that The New York Times honored this work as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year.  I wholeheartedly agree.

 

Frederick Douglass followed William Lloyd Garrison to become the single most important voice of the abolitionist movement. Douglass, the self educated escaped slave was among the greatest writers and the unequaled orator of his time. He wrote three autobiographies, edited two newspapers and delivered hundreds of lectures in small and large communities throughout the country.   Blight captures the enormity of Douglass’s impact on a segregated slave holding nation during the mid-eighteenth century and throughout the Civil War. Following the war, Blight unveils Douglass’s sense of extreme urgency over the fate of his people throughout the tragedy of Reconstruction, and the coming of Jim Crow. Blight leaves no doubt that Frederick Douglass was a revolutionary in his time.

‘’For it is not light that Is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened….the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed.”   Frederick Douglass, July 4th 1850,  Corinthian Hall, Rochester New York. Douglass could move an audience at will.

FREDERICK DOUGLASS/Prophet of Freedom, a biography of the most important African American of the 19th Century.

This book is an excellent companion read for anyone following The New York Times Podcast 1619.

RADIO ACTIVE/O’SHAUGHNESSY AT HIS BEST

Disclaimer! I have  enjoyed a friendship with Bill O’Shaughnessy of Westchester, New York City and of universal broadcasting industry acclaim for over forty years. I have been present at many of the illustrious speeches and tributes included in his latest anthology, Radio Active. This new tome is certainly a homecoming for those of us whose lives in this region have been part of the radio and television community.  However, Radio Active is beyond an industry book. The author shares relationships, interviews, profiles and observations on the political, economic, religious, gastronomic, and of course the media. O’Shaughnessy titles an entire section of the book, “The Obligatory Mario M. Cuomo Section.” His insights into the great statesman is universally acknowledged as unparalleled.

Open to any page and the author’s humanity leaps from the type. Although he is always in step with “the famous,” O’Shaughnessy’s amiability shines most brightly upon the “townies” he has grown to know and love. You may not recognize the names, Diane Gagliardi, Inez Candrea, Peter Mustich, Joseph Anastasi,  but now you will, you will indeed. If you are part of what O’Shaughnessy identifies as “Our Tribe,”  read the poignant remembrances of broadcasting luminaries  Stu Olds, Rick Buckley, Frances Preston, Martin Beck, Ed McLaughlin and Ward Quaal. O’Shaughnessy’s early, brave and prescient defense of Billy Bush is enlightening. If you are among the millions who miss Don Imus you will be warmed by the words of Jonathan Bush  written upon the firing of Imus, long before his own son Billy Bush fell to a similar self righteous swarm.

 

O’Shaughnessy calls his world the “Home Heath.” My observation is that in reality, the geography and scope of that reference is virtually unlimited. That is why when you randomly open Radio Active  one extraordinary individual after another leaps forth. “What is this,” asked a friend  reaching for  a copy of Radio Active that sat on my coffee table. A swish of pages, without lifting his gaze for twenty minutes.

Also by Bill O’Shaughnessy.

AirWAVES, IT ALL COMES BACK TO ME NOW, MORE: RIFFS, RANTS AND WAVES, VOX POPULI, MARIO CUOMO

Read insights into all of William O’Shaughnessy’s books here at gordonsgoodreads.com

O’Shaughnessy Commentaries daily on WVOX 1460 AM, WVIP, 93.5 FM, New Rochelle, New York. Onlineradiobox.com

 

 

EDUCATED/TARA WESTOVER/ ASTONISHING!

i just finished reading The New York Times  best selling memoir, Educated by Tara Westover.  More on that in a moment, but first I transgress too when I first read the classic novel Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe. Why?  When Wolfe’s heralded novel was first published  some literary critics charged that it was not in fact a novel but rather an auto-biography. Some accused Wolfe with telling his life story, an autobiography, rather than creating an original manuscript.  When Look Homeward Angel was published in 1929 the term Memoir was not part of the general descriptions of literary work. Autobiography covered that category.
Now, back too Educated, a memoir. Tara Westover’s life story is so incredulous that this reader was tested on page after page as to whether I was reading a  novel or a memoir. My thoughts were the flip-side  of Look Homeward Angel as I observed , “This can’t be a novel it must be true.” I mean to offer no criticism of Educated or Westover for telling of her remarkable story.  Having read many, many excellent  memoirs ( search gordonsgoodreds.com ), I have  no problems with  memoir authors adopting the necessity of some literary license in bringing a story to life. If you read the memoir  The Glass Castle , by comparison, you may find  Educated a story that in places boarders on disbelief. I make that observation not as criticism but in awe of Westover’s survival and success.
Turn the pages and enjoy.   

THE FLIGHT PORTFOLIO-JULIE ORRINGER- A Novel? Historical Fiction?

Julie Orringer is back with her second Novel titled The Flight Portfolio. The theme is similar to her first  in one aspect, escape from the Nazi’s.  In that Novel, The  Invisible Bridge, Orringer chronicled the escape of the protagonists grandparents from Hungary. ( See gordonsgoodreads.com).  The Flight Portfolio tracks the courageous adventure of Varian Fry, a young American in Marseilles, France seeking to help famous artists and writers escape Nazi tyranny.  Among them are Chagall, Hannah Arndt, and Max Ernst. Fry works under the auspices of an American funded philanthropy, The Emergency Rescue Committee.  Orringer makes clear that the Varian Fry part of her book is in fact a well researched work of non-fiction.

 

In the midst of the daring intrigue  of Fry’s  daily work, Orringer introduces a parallel story line. A former Harvard classmate, Elliott Grant,  and unconventional lover of Fry’s is also in Marseilles, himself seeking to save  the son of yet another individual from the hands of Nazi’s.  The story line becomes tense as Fry’s homosexual  relationship with Grant complicates the mission.

Julie Orringer’s writing is splendid and enjoyable.  Her work is always intricately researched and clearly presented. A novelist who will certainly provide her readers with much future enjoyment.

How To Swim Underwater, short stories by Julie Orringer.  Wonderful.

THE CITY- STATE OF BOSTON by MARK PETERSON

Boston, a city unlike any other in the annals of American history.  ” A City On a Hill,” The Athens of America, ” The Cradle of Liberty.”   Each appellation has been appropriately tested over centuries.  Mark Peterson’s THE C ITY-STATE OF BOSTON is nothing short of remarkable and an important unfolding of the fundamental role this city and its colonial inhabitants played in America from the 1630’s through the onset of the Civil War.

Look not in these pages for the” Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” The Boston Tea Party, or for “One if by land, two if by sea.”  No. This scholarly work is about Boston’s era of enormous influence through the prism of religion, colonial government, social norms, economics, trade, regional influence, slavery and the utopian ideals that the Puritans of the Great Migration brought with them to the New World.  Peterson’s history unfolds upon American shores beginning in the 1630s as British Immigrants establish a largely independent entity called Boston, virtually free from the influence of the mother country. Boston, through the ingenuity and common purpose of its people, established an ethical  culture whose influence spread to the evolving New England Region. Boston became the undisputed mercantile center of the worldwide Atlantic trade, and the dominant force of culture and ideals that lead to the American Revolution.

You will learn of the New England influence upon the Articles of Confederation, of John Adam’s conflicts with Thomas Jefferson in the framing of the Constitution, and of how the slave states ultimately dominated the direction of the nation in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.  The southern block influence became so great under Jefferson that in the period of the War of 1812, Massachusetts considered becoming the first state to succeed from the fragile Union.

I hope these brief references will stimulate you to  absorb Peterson’s  incredible insight into this period of colonial history.  It ranks at the very top of the books I have selected on the subject because it journeys deeply below the surface of the famous named historical events and creates an understanding of how the most important city of the period came into dominance and then faded.  You will be introduced to new individuals whose names never have appeared on the,” marquee of history,”  but  the influence of whom was enormous.

Mark Peterson is the Edmund S. Morgan Professor of History at Yale University. He is the author of The Price of Redemption: The Spiritual Economy of Puritan New England.   Search gordonsgoodreads.com for two suggested companion reads to BostonAmerican Dialogue by Joseph Ellis, The Barbarous Years by Bernard Bailyn, John Adams by David McCullough.