Book Reviews

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  • American Expressionism: Art and Social Change 1920-1950, by Bram Dijkstra
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: Harry M. Abrams, 2003
    When in 1953 right-wingers sought to destroy Anton Refregier’s great mural cycle at Rincon Annex Post Office as “Un-American,” San Francisco’s art and political establishment united to successfully defend the iconic work—a masterpiece of New Deal social realism. Refregier, a Russian immigrant, painted the 27 murals that comprise the “History ...
  • Victor Arnautoff and the Politics of Art, by Robert W. Cherny
    • Reviewed by: Harvey Smith
    • Publisher: University of Illinois Press, 2017
    In a 1935 interview, The San Francisco Chronicle quoted New Deal artist Victor Arnautoff, who said, "As I see it, the artist is a critic of society.” In a new biography of Arnautoff, (1896 –1979), Robert Cherny recounts the political events that shaped the artist’s life and found expression through his ...
  • Wisconsin Post Office Mural Guidebook, by David W. Gates, Jr.
    • Reviewed by: Susan Ives
    • Publisher: David W. Gates, Jr., 2018
    As a through hiker on the Appalachian Trail some years back, David W. Gates Jr. would stop to pick up the supplies he had mailed to himself at the tiny post offices along the route that were his lifeline during his 6-month, 2,176-mile trek through 14 states. He’s been photographing ...
  • Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal, by Eric Rauchway
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: Basic Books, New York, 2018
    Eric Rauchway opens his new book Winter War with the near-miss assassination of President-elect Franklin Roosevelt on February 15, 1933, less than three weeks before his inauguration. If the bullet had found its mark, the U.S. would have had President John Garner, no New Deal, and very likely a total ...
  • Relief, Recreation, Racism: Civilian Conservation Corps Creates South Carolina State Parks, 1933-42, by Robert A. Waller
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: Xlibris US, 2017
    Professor Waller is clearly an enthusiast of the CCC and knowledgeable about its many legacies to South Carolina. His extensive study of the C’s national newsletter, Happy Days, as well as the rare newsletters published by each camp, makes him a congenial guide to how CCC camps functioned and how ...
  • The Public Landscape of the New Deal, by Phoebe Cutler
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: Yale University Press, 1985
    I recently plucked a book off the shelf of my library and found the answer to a question I’m often asked: How did you discover the New Deal? I first read Phoebe Cutler’s pioneering book The Public Landscape of the New Deal shortly after it was published more than thirty years ...
  • New Deal Utopias, by Jason Reblando
    • Reviewed by: Susan Ives
    • Publisher: Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin, 2017
    Over three years Jason Reblando, a Chicago artist and photographer, trained his camera on three Greenbelt towns — Greenbelt, Maryland; Greenhills, Ohio; and Greendale, Wisconsin— constructed during the Depression to house poor Americans, many of them displaced from the Dust Bowl. Rexford Tugwell, a Columbia economics professor tapped to head FDR’s ...
  • Henry Alsberg: The Driving Force of the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project, by Susan Rubenstein DeMasi
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: McFarland & Co., 2016
    “The 1930s was the most creative period in American cultural life” claimed actress Toby Cole when I interviewed her shortly before her death at 92. I thought she was exaggerating because she had worked for the Federal Theatre Project (FTP) during the New Deal.  But after reading Susan Rubenstein DeMasi’s ...
  • We Do Our Part: Toward a Fairer and More Equal America, by Charles Peters
    • Reviewed by: Gabriel Milner, PhD.
    • Publisher: Random House, 2017
    In We Do Our Part: Toward a Fairer and More Equal America, Charles Peters considers the tectonic social shifts he has seen in his lifetime--one that included attending Columbia on the GI Bill, serving in the West Virginia Legislature, working on JFK’s presidential campaign, helping found the Peace Corps, and ...
  • City of Ambition: FDR, La Guardia, and the Making of Modern New York, by Mason B. Williams
    • Reviewed by: Gray Brechin
    • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co., 2013
    As a lifelong Californian, the name La Guardia meant little to me other than an airport and a bronze plaque I once saw at Brooklyn College. That was until I read Mason Williams revelatory book, City of Ambition, about the extraordinarily productive and improbable partnership of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia ...
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