Although most of the poems in this collection deal with topics associated with aging – the loss of loved ones, fleeting memories of childhood, and love of grandchildren – the tone is reflective rather than strictly backward-looking. Events from the past function as reference points upon which to base an assessment of the present, not intended as hard and fast answers, but instead as tools for developing an informed perspective.
The 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago was the embodiment of a nation racing anxiously toward the 20th Century. Set against this backdrop, The Devil in the White City is the story of two men who pushed their personal visions to the limit: Daniel H. Burnham, architect of the “White City” around which the fair was built, and Henry H. Holmes, a maniacal serial killer who murdered scores of Chicagoans by luring them to his “World’s Fair Hotel,” a complex full of torture devices. By juxtaposing these widely disparate lives, the author exposes the dark side of a glittering era.
Published on the 40th anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin is the first detailed examination of the man responsible for that seminal event. Bayard Rustin exhibited charismatic leadership and courage in the early days of the civil rights movement, inspired tens of thousands, and mentored Martin Luther King, Jr., in the principles of nonviolent protest. Yet his name is not accorded the same honor as others in part because, author John D’Emilio argues, he was the victim of American attitudes toward homosexuality during his lifetime.
Faced with the sale of the century-old family summer house on Cape Cod where he had spent forty-two summers, George Howe Colt returned for one last stay with his wife and children. This poignant tribute to the eleven-bedroom jumble of gables, bays, and dormers that watched over weddings, divorces, deaths, anniversaries, birthdays, breakdowns, and love affairs for five generations interweaves Colt’s final visit with memories of a lifetime of summers.
Run-down yet romantic, The Big House stands not only as a cherished reminder of summer’s ephemeral pleasures but also as a powerful symbol of a vanishing way of life.
Created in 1918 following the Russian Revolution, the Gulag was the vast and brutal system of Soviet concentration camps through which some 18 million prisoners passed until the camps’ ultimate collapse in the glasnost era of the mid-1980s. Long ignored by historians, it was not until Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book The Gulag Archipelago (1972) that Soviet labor camps first entered public consciousness. Drawing from both survivor testimonies and access to long-sealed Soviet archives, Gulag: A History is the first comprehensive scholarly examination of day-to-day life in the labor camps and the Gulag’s place in 20th century history.
Noted religion scholar Carlos Eire’s idyllic and privileged childhood in Havana came to an end in the wake of Castro’s revolution. In this memoir, he reveals an exotic, magical Cuba and an eccentric family: his father – a municipal judge and art collector – believed that in a past life he had been King Louis XVI. In 1962, Carlos Eire’s world changed forever when he and his brother were among the 14,000 children airlifted off the island, their parents left behind. In chronicling his life before and after his arrival in America, Mr. Eire’s personal story is also a meditation on loss and suffering, redemption and rebirth.
From his days spent in trenches during the Great War in France, Ray “Fos” Foster had always been intrigued by light. Upon his return to the United States, Fos sets up a photography studio with his new wife, Opal. When Opal inherits land in rural Tennessee, the two relocate, but are soon forced to pick up again after the land is claimed by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1942. Fos’ scientific leanings lead him to seek work at the Oak Ridge Laboratory, where the government is secretly pushing full force ahead for the construction of the atom bomb that eventually will be dropped on Hiroshima. But when Opal is struck with radiation poisoning, Fos loses his faith in science and realizes the difference between things of natural radiance and the new world of artificial suns – a realization that will ultimately come to haunt his son.
When Daniel Emerson, a New York City lawyer, returns to his hometown of Leyden, New York, a picturesque small town on the Hudson River, he is anxious to settle down into family life with his girlfriend Kate, a writer, and her daughter Ruby. But as Kate descends into obsession with the O.J. Simpson trial and starts drinking, Daniel begins to find himself hopelessly attracted to Iris Davenport, a black woman whose son is Ruby’s best friend. After Daniel and Iris spend a night together when they are trapped in the same house by a blizzard, the rosy domesticity that had until then characterized their lives is shattered, and in its place arise troubled issues of race, class, romantic obsession, and family responsibility.
With the Civil War looming, former slave Henry Townsend is a farmer and boot-maker, and has as his mentor (and former owner) William Robbins, arguably the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Under Robbins’ guidance, Henry eventually becomes proprietor of his own plantation, entitling him to 50 acres of land and 33 slaves of his own. The Known World explores the often-neglected historical phenomenon of slaves with black masters in all of its legal and social complexity, providing a glimpse not only into 19th century race relations, but also into the most complex aspects of human nature itself.