The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings

The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings

4.5 2
by Thomas Maier

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Includes several never-before-seen private photos from the Kennedy Family Collection that are being published for the first time.


Includes several never-before-seen private photos from the Kennedy Family Collection that are being published for the first time.

Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
… the best thing about this book is that it explains why JFK won the affection of millions of immigrant families in 20th-century America. Beyond his private and marital failings, he also defined what it meant to be an American in the early 1960s. As president, the dashing young Irish Catholic embodied the immigrant dream -- the ability to rise to the top, to smash barriers of prejudice, to lift the country up through individual hard work and a commitment to the community. —Matthew Dallek
Publishers Weekly
With Doris Kearns Goodwin's The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys out of favor and discredited by charges of plagiarism, the door is open and the time is right for another serious, multigenerational history of America's most fabled clan. Newsday reporter Maier (Dr. Spock: An American Life) answers the need quite well with this fascinating account, which emphasizes the family's roots as Catholics and products of the Irish diaspora. Unlike Ed Klein's provocative The Kennedy Curse, this thoughtful study does not dwell on the sensational. Maier goes to the heart of the Kennedys' spiritual and tribal identity in order to define and explain a range of subplots within the family saga. For example, one sees Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy's appeasement of the Nazis and his general insensitivity to the plight of Europe's Jews during the late 1930s in fuller colors than before when one realizes the context in which he operated and the tradition out of which he sprang, rich with ancient, profound and unapologetic anti-Semitism. (JPK also clung to the traditional Irish-Catholic bias against Great Britain.) Maier likewise supplies a masterful account of the culture and habits related to Boston's distinctly Irish-Catholic ward politics, first experienced by young JFK in 1946. And he goes on to explore conservative Catholic anger over JFK's moves to "appease"-in the opinion of the Jesuit magazine America-anti-Catholic bigots during the 1960 election. This is all very fertile ground seeded, to a great extent, with items quite rare in recent Kennedy scholarship: new information mingled with genuine insight. It's an admirable job overall. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Oct. 15) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A hefty, well-documented, glowing account of the Kennedys as prime examples of the Irish-Catholic experience in America. For this five-generation history of the clan from the mid-19th century to the present day, Newsday journalist and biographer Maier (Newhouse, 1996, etc.) makes extensive use of patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy's personal papers; interviews and correspondence with family and friends in both the US and Ireland round out the picture. Much of the saga is already familiar, but Maier takes particular interest in the Kennedys' religious and ethnic background, how it influenced their thinking and their actions. He paints a vivid picture of the anti-Irish, anti-Catholic sentiment that faced immigrants with brogues, and he shows how the first American-born Kennedy, P.J., used his position as a tavern owner to become ward boss in his Irish immigrant community. The account becomes increasingly detailed as it shifts to P.J.'s son Joseph. Rather than focusing on how the patriarch became wealthy, Maier looks at how he used his wealth and power behind the scenes in the Catholic Church. Among Joseph's children, the author is most interested in Jack's use of his Irish-Catholic background early in his political career and his struggles against anti-Catholic bias in the 1960 presidential campaign. Maier also examines how JFK's presidency affected perceptions of the Church by outsiders, and especially how his background shaped his positions on civil rights, immigration, and the war on communism. Later he looks at Robert's appeal to other ethnic minorities, including Latinos and blacks, and to the efforts of Ted and Jean to bring peace to Northern Ireland. In the next generation, Maier finds thatit is often the women (e.g., Caroline Kennedy and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend) who have assumed the role of "Irish chieftain," those traditional clan leaders of old who inspired and led their people. Largely airbrushed family portrait, with warts shown mainly on the face of a prejudiced society. (Two 16-page b&w photo inserts, not seen) Author tour. Agent: Faith Hamlin/Sanford Greenberger Associates

Product Details

Basic Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.44(w) x 9.44(h) x 2.10(d)

What People are saying about this

Ronald Steel
In examining the important place of Irish Catholicism in the Kennedy story, Thomas Maier adds a new dimension to our understanding of a dynasty deeply rooted in a tribe.
— (Ronald Steel, author of In Love With Night: The American Romance With Robert Kennedy and Walter Lippmann and the American Century)
Evan Thomas
You can't understand the Kennedys unless you look at their Irish Catholic roots. Thomas Maier has gone far beyond earlier Kennedy biographers and historians to reveal ties that shaped the Kennedys long after they left Ireland. And he's done it in a lively, readable way.
—(Evan Thomas, author of Robert Kennedy: His Life)
Terry Golway
"Thomas Maier reminds us of a story we've forgotten: The Kennedys are not simply America's most-famous family. They are an immigrant family, a family that struggled through poverty and oppression on both sides of the Atlantic. This highly readable book offers a new and powerful look at this storied clan. This is a Kennedy book with insights and observations you haven't read elsewhere." (author of So Others Might Live)

Meet the Author

Thomas Maier is a staff reporter at New York Newsday. He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Dr. Spock: An American Life, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in East Northport, New York.

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The Kennedys - America's Emerald Kings 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a perfect book for anyone who has overseas Irish relatives who have at some point or still have that picture of John Kennedy on the wall! Loved it and it balances the Joe Public view of the Camelot curse with the real story - this is a family who has struggled and survived the court of public opinion.