Hasia R. Diner‘s 2017 biography of the late businessman and philanthropist, Julius Rosenwald is entitled Julius Rosenwald: Repairing the World. Born in 1862 to Jewish immigrants, his early years were modest. As an adult, he took over the helm of Sears, Roebuck & Company and made it the retail giant of it’s day. He also ahead of his time in the manner that he treated his staff and his approach to those who were not as fortunate as he was. Instead of putting his names on buildings and using his wealth for conspicuous consumption, he was passionate about giving back. In addition to supporting his co-religionists, he supported the African-American community in a way that many Caucasians did not in that early 20th century.
Before reading this book, I had no idea who Rosenwald was. He is one of those figures in Jewish history who is not as well known as others of his day. This is a quick read (in a good way) and a story that I think is inspiring for us all, regardless of faith or family origin. It shows that it is possible to be a mensch and not give into the preconceived notions of other people.
Sometimes, when the issues we talk about become too emotionally heavy, the best way to bring down the temperature is to have an honest conversation.
The WNYC podcast, The Takeaway, has been on the air since 2008. Hosted by Tanzina Vega, it airs every weekday from 3-4 PM. Bringing on politically and social justice minded guests, the topics center around local and national political news.
I really enjoy this podcast. Though the subjects discussed are the same as other political podcasts, there is a thoughtfulness and an intelligence to the way they are spoken of. It makes me think without making me angry or upset. Which, given the current status of American politics, is sometimes hard to do.
Sometimes, the most difficult conversations are the most important.
The WNYC podcast, United States of Anxiety, has been on the air since 2016. Hosted by Kai Wright, the topics discussed are race, racism, social justice, and how we can make amends for the mistakes from the past.
Though much of the last four years have been focused on politics and the previous Presidential administration, there are also discussions about thorny issues that after many generations, are still unresolved. As a listener, I appreciate the honesty of Wright and his guests, making the subject matter as palatable as possible while not shying away from the hard truth of where we have been as a nation.
Some people know from an early age that they are going to change the world. Others simply change their world by being a decent human being and seeing the injustice that is forced on others.
The new Eleanor Roosevelt biography, titled Eleanor, was written by David Michaelis. Published last fall, this is an extensive womb to tomb biography of the late former First Lady. Born in 1884 in New York City to the wealthy and respected Roosevelt family, her childhood was not a happy one. She lost both of her parents and her younger brother by the she was a teenager. As a young woman, she married her fifth cousin and future President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Their marriage not all sunshine and roses. But it became the platform she needed to become one of the greatest social justice warriors of the 20th century. Whether or not she knew it, Eleanor was a proto-feminist while serving as First Lady. Instead of quietly following in the footsteps of her predecessors, she became an activist. While other women were just starting to step out of the traditionally female world, she jumped whole heartedly into the causes she believed in.
This book is a masterpiece. It is gripping, entertaining, and humanizes a giant of American history. I will warn however, that it is far from a short read. But it is completely worth it, taking the reader behind the public image to see real woman behind the myth.
Family is complicated. Life is complicated. Bring those together and you have a complicated reality.
The new musical, Jagged Little Pill (based on the groundbreaking 1995 album by Alanis Morissette) takes place in suburban Connecticut. The Healy family appears to be picture perfect. Steve Healy (Sean Allan Krill) works long hours in the city, creating an emotional rift between himself and his family. His wife, Mary Jane (Elizabeth Stanley) does everything she can to be the perfect wife and mother. But an off stage car accident and a prescription for post surgery pain killers has led Mary Jane down the road to addiction.
Their son, Nick (Derek Klena) is everything a parent would wish for in a teenage son. His collegiate path seems to be headed straight to the Ivy Leagues, but Derek is not sure if this is the best option for him. Adopted daughter Frankie (Celia Rose Gooding) is unsure about her place in her mostly White community. Focused on social justice and getting into a relationship with her best friend Jo (Lauren Patten) is only the beginning of her struggles.
With a book written by Diablo Cody, Jagged Little Pill is more than the standard jukebox musical. The narrative includes thorny issues such as addiction, sexual assault, finding your sexuality, growing up, etc. But instead of being written as if standing on a soapbox, Cody naturally integrated the issues into a story of a family going through a rough patch.
Though the impression is that one needs to be a fan of Morissette and her music to enjoy the show, that is not necessarily true. It helps to know the songs, but not knowing them is not a deterrent for seeing and enjoying the show. I don’t see Broadway musicals very often, but this (for me at least) is one for the books.
I will warn that some long time Morissette fans might be a little put off by change of some lyrics. The changes were only made to match the narrative and are still the same songs that we have known and loved for 25 years.
I absolutely reccomend it.
Jagged Little Pill is playing at the Broadhurst Theater in New York City. Check the website for showtimes and ticket prices.