Elizabeth B. Pinson shares with us her memories of Alaska's emergence into a new and modern era, bearing witness to history in the early twentieth century as she recalls it. She draws us into her world as a young girl of mixed ethnicity, with a mother whose Eskimo family had resided on the Seward Peninsula for generations and a father of German heritage. Growing up in and near the tiny village of Teller on the Bering Strait, Elizabeth at the age of six, despite a harrowing, long midwinter sled ride to rescue her, lost both her legs to frostbite when her grandparents, with whom she was spending the winter in their traditional Eskimo home, died in the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Fitted with artificial legs financed by an eastern benefactor, Elizabeth kept journals of her struggles, triumphs, and adventures, recording her impressions of the changing world around her and experiences with the motley characters she met. These included Roald Amundsen, whose dirigible landed in Teller after crossing the Arctic Circle; the ill-fated 1921 British colonists of Wrangel Island in the Arctic; trading ship captains and crews; prospectors; doomed aviators; and native reindeer herders. Elizabeth moved on to boarding school, marriage, and the state of Washington, where she compiled her records into this memoir and where she lived until her death in 2006.
“I have read all of Daniel Aaron’s books, and admired them, but in The Americanist I believe he has composed an intellectual and social memoir for which he will be remembered. His self-portrait is marked by personal tact and admirable restraint: he is and is not its subject. The Americanist is a vision of otherness: literary and academic friends and acquaintances, here and abroad. Eloquently phrased and free of nostalgia, it catches a lost world that yet engendered much of our own.”
“The Americanist is the absorbing intellectual autobiography of Daniel Aaron, who is the leading proponent and practitioner of American Studies. Written with grace and wit, it skillfully blends Daniel Aaron’s personal story with the history of the field he has done so much to create. This is a first-rate book by a first-rate scholar.”
—David Herbert Donald, Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
The Americanist is author and critic Daniel Aaron’s anthem to nearly a century of public and private life in America and abroad. Aaron, who is widely regarded as one of the founders of American Studies, graduated from the University of Michigan, received his Ph.D. from Harvard, and taught for over three decades each at Smith College and Harvard.
Aaron writes with unsentimental nostalgia about his childhood in Los Angeles and Chicago and his later academic career, which took him around the globe, often in the role of America’s accidental yet impartial critic. When Walt Whitman, whom Aaron frequently cites as a touchstone, wrote, “I am large, I contain multitudes,” he could have been describing Daniel Aaron—the consummate erudite and Renaissance individual whose allegiance to the truth always outweighs mere partisan loyalty.
Not only should Aaron’s book stand as a resplendent and summative work from one of the finest thinkers of the last hundred years, it also succeeds on its own as a first-rate piece of literature, on a par with the writings of any of its subjects. The Americanist is a veritable Who’s Who of twentieth-century writers Aaron interviewed, interacted with, or otherwise encountered throughout his life: Ralph Ellison, Robert Frost, Lillian Hellman, Richard Hofstadter, Alfred Kazin, Sinclair Lewis, Malcolm Muggeridge, John Crowe Ransom, Upton Sinclair, Edmund Wilson, Leonard Woolf, and W. B. Yeats, to name only a few.
Aaron’s frank and personal observations of these literary lights make for lively reading. As well, scattered throughout The Americanist are illuminating portraits of American presidents living and passed—miniature masterworks of astute political observation that offer dazzlingly fresh approaches to well-trod subjects.
In 1937 thirty-six nervous young men dressed in ill-fitting blue suits, wearing berets, and carrying identical black valises, were given tickets for an American Export Lines ship. They were told to conduct themselves as ordinary tourists, to be "inconspicuous." They were volunteers for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, traveling the French underground to join in the fight against Franco. Among them was Milt Felsen, a young New Yorker and radical antiwar activist on the University of Iowa campus who had decided that fascism had to be opposed. Some of these young men never made it to their destination. But Milt Felsen did, beginning a march across the Pyrenees which was only the first of his many battles and adventures.
Told with uncommon wit and verve, this memoir of war and resistance is a stirring account of Felsen's involvement in two decades of battle. Surprisingly, this is a spirited and even funny book, infused with Felsen's unbeatable personality. After the Spanish Civil War, Felsen helped form the O.S.S. in World War II. Taken prisoner of war, he escaped in his inimitable style during a 1,200-mile prisoner-of-war march and drove out of Nazi Germany in a Mercedes-Benz. He returned to the United States more convinced than ever of war's insanity and its extreme human cost.
Most of us are only spectators of the world's larger events. Milt Felsen knew the excitement and despair of being a participant. While most war books abound in details of what happened, this one also delves into why. Felsen's straightforward account is refreshingly frank and doesn't pretend to be more than it is—his own lived version of war and common truths.
Basket weaver, storyteller, and tribal elder, Frances Manuel is a living preserver of Tohono O’odham culture. Speaking in her own words from the heart of the Arizona desert, she now shares the story of her life. She tells of O’odham culture and society, and of the fortunes and misfortunes of Native Americans in the southwestern borderlands over the past century.
In Desert Indian Woman, Frances relates her life and her stories with the wit, humor, and insight that have endeared her to family and friends. She tells of her early childhood growing up in a mesquite brush house, her training in tribal traditions, her acquaintance with Mexican ways, and her education in an American boarding school. Through her recollections of births and deaths, heartache and happiness, we learn of her family’s migration from the reservation to the barrios and back again. In the details of her everyday life, we see how Frances has navigated between O’odham and American societies, always keeping her grandparents’ traditional teachings as her compass.
It is extraordinary to hear from a Native American woman like Frances, in her own words and her own point of view, to enter the complex and sensitive aspects of her life experience, her sorrows, and her dreams. We also become privy to her continuing search for her identity across the border, and the ways in which Frances and Deborah have attempted to make sense of their friendship over twenty-odd years. Throughout the book, Deborah captures the rhythms of Frances’s narrative style, conveying the connectedness of her dreams, songs, and legends with everyday life, bringing images and people from faraway times and places into the present.
Deborah Neff brings a breadth of experience in anthropology and Southwest Native American cultures to the task of placing Frances Manuel’s life in its broader historical context, illuminating how history works itself out in people’s everyday lives. Desert Indian Woman is the story of an individual life lived well and a major contribution to the understanding of history from a Native American point of view.
This first-hand account tells the story of turbulent civil rights era Atlanta through the eyes of a white upper-class woman who became an outspoken advocate for integration and racial equalityAs a privileged white woman who grew up in segregated Atlanta, Sara Mitchell Parsons was an unlikely candidate to become a civil rights agitator. After all, her only contacts with blacks were with those who helped raise her and those who later helped raise her children. As a young woman, she followed the conventional path expected of her, becoming the dutiful wife of a conservative husband, going to the country club, and playing bridge. But unlike many of her peers, Parsons harbored an increasing uneasiness about racial segregation.
Appointed by Pope John XXIII to the Pontifical Commission on Population, Family, and Birth, Fuchs ultimately found himself disappointed in his three years of service and spent the next thirty years exploring a broad array of issues pivotal to a reconstruction of Roman Catholic natural law theory. This is the first full-length analysis of Fuchs's efforts.
Beginning historically by looking at Fuchs's writings and beliefs before the Pontifical Commission appointment, including his defense of natural law during the "situation ethics" debates of the 50s and 60s, the concept of personal salvation, and the status of "nature" and "human nature," Graham moves to the intellectual conversion that inspired Fuchs to reconsider his concepts following the commission appointment. From there, Graham engages in a sustained critique of Fuchs's natural theory, addressing both the strengths and weaknesses to be found there and suggest possible avenues of development that would make a positive contribution to the ongoing quest to rehabilitate the Roman Catholic natural law theory that continues to dominate the landscape of moral theology today.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott, which ignited the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, has always been vitally important in southern and black history. With the publication of this book, the boycott becomes a milestone in the history of American women as well.
"This autobiographical account of the creation of the boycott is the most important document on that highly significant episode since Martin Luther King's own version, Stride Towards Freedom. I feel certain that scholars and students will refer to this unique historical source for generations to come."
--J. Mills Thornton, University of Michigan
"This valuable first-hand account of the historic Montgomery Bus Boycott, written by an important, behind-the-scenes organizer, evokes the emotional intensity of the civil rights struggle. It ought to be required reading for all Americans who value their freedom and the contribution of black women to our history."
--Coretta Scott King
"A sharply remembered addition to the literature on what has become an event of mythic proportions, and a sound primer for those interested in community organizing. The author is scrupulously honest, modest, and gives unsung heroes much deserved praise."
"This fascinating memoir provides new evidence on the origins and sustaining force of the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-56)."
--Anthony O. Edmonds, Library Journal
"There's no substitute for this intimate memoir; it provides an immediacy and graphic intensity never before available."
--Marge Frantz, San Jose Mercury News
"This powerful memoir is a milestone in the history of that boycott and in the American Civil Rights Movement."
--American History Illustrated
"This absorbing study may become a minor classic in the literature of the Montgomery bus boycott. . . . Garrow correctly states in his Foreword that this book is the most important participant-observer account of the Montgomery protest available to students and scholars of the black freedom movement. . . . This straightforward, sensitive memoir is must reading for students of the civil rights movement. It is a powerful commentary on how a woman and the group she led rose up to throw off an injustice thrust upon them. When Jo Ann Robinson and other Montgomery women decided no longer to play the role of contented black Southerners, they gave blacks everywhere renewed hope, and they helped to create a national leader who took them closer to the promised land."
—Jimmie L. Franklin, The Alabama Review
"In an absorbing, first-hand narrative, the dignified and unassuming Robinson focuses on the role of the Women's Political Council (WPC) and details the WPC's plans to engineer a boycott months before the heralded arrest of Rosa Parks. . . . The value of this primary source will endure long after many best-selling, secondary accounts of national politics during this period have disappeared."
—Keith D. Miller and Elizabeth Vander Lei, Explorations in Sight and Sound
Author Steven J. Harper pays tribute to a well-respected teacher with this biography of a distinguished William Smith Mason Professor of History at Northwestern University, Richard W. Leopold. Harper had maintained contact with his former professor, as had hundreds of other alumni, meeting with him in the apartment to which his age and health confined him. When Leopold invited him to review his biographical materials to prepare a New York Times obituary, Harper began to catch glimpses of a deeper history in Leopold’s life: that of Jews in America after the turn of the century.
Across two years of Sundays, Leopold’s life came together and Harper began to notice parallels between the life of his professor and the life of his recently deceased father-in-law. Both grew up in less orthodox households but were still identified as Jewish by others; both attended Ivy League colleges, fighting (and beating) anti-Semitism there; and both served their country with distinction in World War II. The two men persevered through a twentieth century Jewish-American experience that they and many others shared, but rarely discussed. Steven Harper has caught them both on the page just in time to document their lives, their culture, and the nation that grew and changed alongside them.
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