Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation

Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nation

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by Ellen Fitzpatrick
     
 

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It is perhaps the most memorable event of the twentieth century, a moment that left a family and a nation mourning, one that many Americans recall as their first historical memory-the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within seven weeks of the President's death, Jacqueline Kennedy received more than 800,000 condolence letters. Two years later, the… See more details below

Overview

It is perhaps the most memorable event of the twentieth century, a moment that left a family and a nation mourning, one that many Americans recall as their first historical memory-the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Within seven weeks of the President's death, Jacqueline Kennedy received more than 800,000 condolence letters. Two years later, the volume of correspondence would exceed 1.5 million letters. For the next forty-six years, the letters would remain essentially untouched.

Now historian Ellen Fitzpatrick has selected approximately 250 of these letters for inclusion in Letters to Jackie, a remarkable human record that perfectly preserves the heart-wrenching grief and soul searching of the nation in a time of crisis. Capturing the extraordinary eloquence of so-called ordinary Americans across generations, regions, race, political leanings, and religion-in messages written on elegant stationery, scraps of paper, in pencil, type, ink smudged by tears, and in barely legible handwriting-the letters capture what John F. Kennedy meant to the country, and how his death for some divided American history into Before and After.

In Letters to Jackie, Fitzpatrick allows Americans to write their own history of these tumultuous times. "The coffin was very small," as one sixteen-year-old girl observed, "to contain so much of so many Americans." In reflecting on their sense of loss, their fears, and their striving, the authors of these letters wrote an American elegy as poignant and as compelling as their shattered and cherished dreams.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The national struggle to make sense of President Kennedy's assassination included an outpouring of mail sent to Kennedy's much-loved widow, Jacqueline, some 800,000 letters, which had been in storage until professor and author Fitzpatrick (History's Memory: Writing America's Past) took on the Herculean task of curating them. Here, she attempts to create a meaningful narrative out of the nation's massive record of grief-a real anomaly in a time when writing to public figures was frowned upon-by examining different groups (widows, African Americans, children) and examining the impact Kennedy made on every American, regardless of politics, which lead ultimately to his legend. Despite its power and significance, the material is repetitive and may overwhelm; those with the patience to wade through, however, will be rewarded with a you-are-there feel for this turning point in history.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Doris Kearns Goodwin
“This is a terrific, original, and important work, the perfect match between subject and author. With an historian’s grasp of time and place and a novelist’s feel for drama and detail, Fitzpatrick provides a stunningly fresh look at the impact of JFK’s assassination on the American people.”
Alan Brinkley
“Ellen Fitzpatrick’s wonderful book — which is both a perceptive history of the public response to John Kennedy’s death and a selection of the millions of letters that followed the assassination — is a remarkable window into the character of the nation in the 1960s.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061969843
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/02/2010
Pages:
355
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Doris Kearns Goodwin
“This is a terrific, original, and important work, the perfect match between subject and author. With an historian’s grasp of time and place and a novelist’s feel for drama and detail, Fitzpatrick provides a stunningly fresh look at the impact of JFK’s assassination on the American people.”
Alan Brinkley
“Ellen Fitzpatrick’s wonderful book — which is both a perceptive history of the public response to John Kennedy’s death and a selection of the millions of letters that followed the assassination — is a remarkable window into the character of the nation in the 1960s.”

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