The position of First Lady is a tricky one; it's not a political or appointed office, yet during any presidential administration, her name (and personality) is far more known that that of the vice president or secretary of state. Likewise, the First Lady has, potentially, the ear of the president in a far more influential way than these other elected officials. Until recent years, most First Ladies made a deliberate choice not to get involved with the politics of running the country.
Eleanor Roosevelt's sense of duty, however, as well as her lifelong commitment to humanitarianism, led her to choose a different route. Still, by her own admission, her instincts for self-effacement would have probably kept her out of the political limelight, were it not for the crippling polio that curtailed many of her husband's speech-making appearances after 1921.
The timing for a First Lady such as Eleanor could not have been more auspicious. When Franklin Roosevelt took office as President of the United States, the country was in the grip of a fierce depression that threatened to topple its financial foundations. As the decade segued into the 1940s, the world became involved in a war against Nazism and Fascism. Domestically, racial and gender inequalities ran rife throughout the United States, at a time when the nation, more than ever, could not survive such division.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
There is a famous photo of Eleanor and Franklin in their car during Inauguration Day, looking confident and even radiantly happy. It belied her true feelings of fear that she would be forced, for the sake of political correctness, into abandoning some of her pet projects a scenario she had no intention of allowing. That evening, Eleanor, the least socialite of all Washington wives, donned a silver-blue gown and fur coat and attended, by herself, the inaugural ball. She would be the only First Lady ever to do so without her husband, because Franklin didn't want to be publicly seen in a wheelchair and unable to dance.
According to the second volume of her autobiography, This I Remember, Eleanor said of her husband's presidency (and her own prominence) to her friend, reporter Lorena Hickok, "I never wanted it, even though some people have said that my ambition for myself drove him on...I never wanted to be a President's wife, and I don't want it now."
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Biography of Eleanor Roosevelt
+ First Lady of a State and a Nation
+ White House Years
+ ...and much more
ABOUT THE BOOK
It is impossible to separate Frida Kahlo's work from her life. This most autobiographical of artists created a virtual timeline in her paintings that spanned her entire career as an artist. From the time she began painting while recovering from a brutal accident that left her disabled, to her final struggles, shortly before her death, with a body that was literally wired together, Frida Kahlo chronicled her life on canvas. Above the gruesome aspects of her injuries, above the pain and the surgeries, rose a white hot flame of passion and creativity. When Frida Kahlo suffered, she suffered intensely; when she celebrated, her world became a celebration.
Because of the intensity of these highs and lows, the visceral effect of Frida Kahlo's work hits you with a virtual punch to the stomach. Before you realize it, you're drawn into her world, captivated by those solemn, staring portraits which, in turn, are scrutinizing you as well.
In some ways, Dr. Seuss seems as unexpected and paradoxical a character as one of his own creations. His last name wasn't Seuss, he wasn't a doctor, and he never had his own children – nor was he particularly comfortable around them. When he did consent to answer an interviewer's questions, his replies were often as whimsical as his children's books.
The mystery was part of the legend and served him well, for it's hard for readers to separate the real Dr. Seuss from the fantasyland he dreamed up – a fantasyland that was sorely-needed in the years just before and after the Second World War. Dr. Seuss's books came out at a time when schools were using the often-boring, formulaic Dick and Jane series of books to teach reading to first and second graders. The illustrations were candy-box pretty, and there were no plots, no stories, and certainly no fantasy.
Enter Dr. Seuss, with his Grinches and Hortons and Whos from Whoville. It was a world that children – and adults – had never before seen in children's literature; a world that inspired children to dream big, and to channel their highest ideals and most exciting, adventurous dreams into their own lives. This world also used words in fantastical ways, with a rhythm that virtually reinvented children's poetry.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Agatha Christie's own life was, in many ways, as mysterious as those of her characters. Assuredly it was her predilection for the cryptic that led her to create the fiery-yet-unfathomable Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. Yet, while Poirot epitomizes the image of the enigmatic detective, his creator was just as inscrutable, making her own life a story worthy of a novel of its own.
Agatha Christie's other great creation, Jane Marple, seems far more accessible, but she keeps her own counsel as well, a trait that Agatha Christie perfected in her own life. It came as no great surprise to her fans that, after her death, secrets from Christie's life suddenly tumbled out in the form of newly-discovered archived recordings she had made decades before. These recordings, completely unknown to the public, provide a new insight into her creations, and created a fascinating denouement that Agatha would have loved.
Why have the writings of this exacting, rather reclusive author resonated with the public for so many generations? The secret is one that Agatha knew well: her stories are about people we can relate to in real life. As Hercule Poirot was fond of saying, everyone has the makings of a criminal in him; the key to success in life is in how we master those darker feelings. As we read an Agatha Christie novel, we realize that we ourselves could easily be one of the characters - and yes, even the murderer.
EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK
Other than its inventive plot, a major reason for the success of this first novel was the quirky yet captivating character of Hercule Poirot, who was inspired by the Belgian refugees living in England whom Agatha had met during the First World War. She recalled that they had a hard time understanding the British way of doing things, and preferred to assimilate as little of British life as possible.
Throughout the 1920s Agatha completed to write, and produced one of her greatest successes, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, in 1926. This novel was a sensation with the reading public because of its unexpected and even shocking ending, and was so popular that it was made into a movie in 1931, Alibi, which marked the first film appearance of Hercule Poirot.
The 1930s, however, proved to be Agatha's most productive time as a writer. During this decade she wrote a total of 14 Poirot novels and two Miss Marple novels, as well as two books featuring the character Superintendent Battle, two story collections featuring the characters Harley Quin and Mr. Parker Pyne, four additional mystery books, two plays and a novel under her pseudonym, Mary Westmacott...
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