In America Reborn, journalist and historian Martin Walker defines twentieth-century America through the portraits of twenty-six American individuals whose accomplishments, innovations and ideals propelled the United States to a position of global dominance.
Here are the thoughts and beliefs of politicians and performers, thinkers and doers, capitalists and revolutionaries, immigrants and the native born. From Teddy Roosevelt's imperial ambitions to Bill Clinton's global vision; Emma Goldman’s radical ideals to William F. Buckley's profound conservatism; Albert Einstein's elegant theories to Katharine Hepburn's elegant delivery-the biographical essays that make up this narrative show us the variety of American archetypes and offer a vision of how strong individualism has always been the bedrock of (helped make up) the American character.
As the title suggests, British journalist Walker (The Cold War: A History, etc.) views history through the prism of biography in his engaging, though sometimes superficial, chronicle of the U.S.'s political, social and economic development over the course of the 20th century. Each chapter takes a well-known individual as a paradigm for a larger development ("Emma Goldman and the American Dissident," "Lucky Luciano and the American Criminal," etc.). The early chapters are essentially recapitulations of received wisdom: for instance, Henry Ford invents mass production and realizes he must also create a mass consumer class, hence the five-dollar day for his workers. When the choices are not conventional, they can be arguable: Katharine Hepburn is hardly a typical Hollywood star, and using Winston Churchill (whose mother was American) as a way of examining "the American diaspora" (whose meaning is never satisfactorily clarified) simply doesn't work. As the narrative approaches the 1970s, when Walker began reporting in the U.S., it sharpens considerably. Particularly strong is the chapter on Richard Nixon, in which Walker argues that the most important of the "three strategic disasters that marked his presidency" was neither Watergate nor the fall of Saigon but Nixon's decision to abandon the gold standard and devalue the dollar, which led to the ghastly inflation of the '70s and the resulting triumph of Reaganomics in the '80s. Throughout his accessible text, the author also does a good job of tracing his main theme, the nation's century-long struggle to deal with Americans' ambivalence about international involvement. There's little new here, but Walker's lively popular history is generally informative and appealing. 26 photos. (May) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|