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The Inheritance

The Inheritance

by Samuel G. Freedman

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Through the prism of three working-class families, Samuel Freedman illuminates the political history of 20th-century America, commencing with the immigrant foundation that laid the foundation for FDR's New Deal, taking readers through the 1960's era of political activism and ending with today's conservatism. 464 pp.


Through the prism of three working-class families, Samuel Freedman illuminates the political history of 20th-century America, commencing with the immigrant foundation that laid the foundation for FDR's New Deal, taking readers through the 1960's era of political activism and ending with today's conservatism. 464 pp.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Freedmana former New York Times reporter and author of two reportorial gems, Small Victories (focusing on an innovative Manhattan teacher) and Upon This Rock (about a popular black church in Brooklyn)here turns to a broader canvas with an impressive grasp of detail and a feeling for his subject that, in this election year, should finally win him the wider audience his earlier books also deserved. Combining sociology with political science and a good deal of old-fashioned city-room legwork, Freedman follows three generations of three very different working-class immigrant families as they progress from being FDR Democrats to Gingrich-era activist Republicans. The approach may remind some of Anthony Lucas's Pulitzer Prize-winning Common Ground, but this is a more immediate, more personal account, one that only rarely steps back from its close-ups of the families to present a broader picture. The result is a series of unforgettable portraits and a vividly individual history of America in the second half of the 20th century. One family is Irish, another Italian. Both of them settled in New York City or its environs. The third is Polish and settled in Baltimore. With its emphasis on trade unions and politics on the precinct level, and its underlying theme that the reality of the New Deal is being forgotten by both parties, this is a skillful and artful account of how we got where we are. (Sept.)
Library Journal
This compelling story of the political journey of three generations of three ethnic Catholic families is a spellbinding account of the rise and fall of liberalism during the 20th century. The first generation of immigrantsan Irish domestic, an Italian plumber, and a Polish numbers-running ward heelerowed their lives and their votes to the New Deal during the 1930s. The commitment of the next generation to liberal politics weakened as the families began to enjoy prosperity. By the 1980s and 1990s, the third generation embraced conservatism because of the corruption of the big-city machine politics, the social eruptions of the 1960s, the conundrum of affirmative action, and spreading crime. The inheritors of the mixed blessings of a large activist government became vanguards of a conservative Republican party. Freedman (Small Victories, LJ 5/1/90, one of LJ's Best Books of 1990) offers an unforgettable portrayal of the impact of politics on ordinary people. This blockbuster-to-be is social history at its best. Highly recommended for all public libraries.Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, Pa.
Renee Loth, The Boston Globe
"The Inerhitance goes far to challenge easy orthodoxies of American politics. Freedman's moving, important book explains not just how America moved from Roosevelt to Reagan, but why."
"Not since Common Ground...has any bookso successfully captured the sweep of political history in the lives of ordinary citizens." --Steven Pearlstein, The Washington Post Book World
Kirkus Reviews
An intimate look at three generations of three white, ethnic Catholic families, and their eventual transformation from Democrats to Republicans, from a highly regarded former New York Times reporter.

Working backwards from three Republican party activists—Tim Carey, Leslie Maeby, and Frank Trotta—Freedman (Upon this Rock, 1992; Small Victories, 1990) deconstructs their family trees to explain their third-generation mutation away from Depression-era, New Deal Democratic roots. He offers richly detailed portraits of dirt-poor, working-class immigrant patriarchs and matriarchs, their children and grandchildren, and many of the people among whom they live and lived. Freedman presents these families as paradigms of America's shift to the right; he writes that this "historic realignment depended extensively, even disproportionately, on families like those of Tim Carey, Leslie Maeby, and Frank Trotta—Catholics with Democratic pasts." Freedman offers no simple explanations for this realignment. Some family members shifted allegiance from Democratic machines to Republican ones in their move from the city to the suburbs; others resented the welfare system and minority demands, comparing them unfavorably to their own by-the-bootstraps experiences. And some—including the three contemporary subjects—turned to conservatism as idealists, in opposition to the perceived failures of liberalism, especially as it affects their class and kind. Freedman deserves credit for not attempting simplistic explanations for this rightward realignment. At the same time, however, he lets the wealth of information he accumulated in his research get away from him, telling us more than we need to know about the inner workings of Montgomery Ward (in connection with the Maeby family) or the tactics employed by Maeby and Carey in recent election campaigns.

A book of great value as a manual to Democratic and Republican operatives, and of great interest, as autobiograpy, to the Republican descendants of ethnic New Deal Democrats. A hundred pages shorter, it would appeal to an even broader audience.

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Simon & Schuster
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1.04(w) x 5.50(h) x 8.50(d)

Meet the Author

Samuel G. Freedman is a columnist for The New York Times and a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He is the author of six acclaimed books, four of which have been New York Times Notable Books of the Year. Freedman also has written frequently for USA TODAY, New York magazine, Rolling Stone, The Jerusalem Post, Tablet, The Forward, and Salon.com. He lives in Manhattan with his fiance and his children.

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