A Book Recommendation from Its Author – The Sword and the Shield

I had to admire Peniel Joseph against the backdrop of bookshelves proudly displaying multiple copies of The Sword and the Shield – not the spines, but the covers lined up on a wall of bookshelves behind him, as he discussed the controversy of tearing down monuments with Judy Woodruff on the PBS News Hour.  What great publicity.  Of course, I had to find the book and of course he is the author.

In a review of The Sword and the Shield: The Revolutionary Lives of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.,  Mark Whitaker for the Washington Post notes:

“Joseph, a historian at the University of Texas at Austin, has made his name studying the Black Power movement and wrote the definitive biography of Stokely Carmichael, the mercurial leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In turning to King and Malcolm, he ventures into far more densely covered historical territory… {and}  for the most part he smartly zeros in on the relatively brief period during which King and Malcolm actively influenced each other, even if they had no personal contact. It is a fascinating story, full of subtle twists and turns, that unfolded in three phases.”

The New York Times offered an excerpt from the book – you can check it out here.

This might be a good time to revisit their lives by reading the book.


Come to the Edge – A Memoir

The young love life of John F. Kennedy, Jr. – what a topic for a book. When I saw Christina Haag interviewed on a morning talk show, I was hooked, and wanted to read her memoir – “Come to the Edge.” The promise of an insider’s view of the young prince was enticing, since anyone else who knew Kennedy is either dead or not talking.

In a clever prologue, Haag remembers her first real kiss with JFK,Jr. After that, it’s bait and switch. This is Christina Haag’s memoir – her life, her parents, her friends.

Amazingly, she recalls where John John got his hair cut as a child, and because she traveled in the same elite private school circle as a teenager in New York City, she had invitations to parties and gatherings where she witnessed and sometimes participated in JFK, Jr.’s young adult transgressions. When they met again at Brown, they became housemates.

Later, a play about Irish lovers sparks the romance – the rehearsed kisses for their roles become real. Haag recalls their passion, moonlit walks, exciting adventures, and John’s terrifying recklessness (“…don’t tell Mommy, he repeated like a mantra.”). She could be writing a romance novel with sleepovers at Jackie O’s 5th Avenue apartment, the Kennedy Compound, Jackie’s house in New Jersey – magnificent backdrops as Haag vividly describes the settings (not the romps) in detail.

Jackie approved; Ethel didn’t; Rose would like to see him settled. Haag never reveals why they separated. She hints at her acting career, movie star Daryl Hannah, his inability to commit to marriage -to her, but in the end, just calls it bad timing.

Although the prose is flowery and the action self-serving, nothing shocking or new is revealed. Some of Haag’s insider experiences actually bring back the Camelot mystique, and she says nothing to dispel the aura of the former First Lady’s graciousness.

Great way to jump start a career? Haag reveals her reason for writing her story now; life is short for everyone, after all. And now her name will be forever linked with his.