Annal: 1996 National Book Award for Nonfiction

Results of the National Book Award in the year 1996.

Book:An American Requiem

An American Requiem: God, My Father, and the War That Came Between Us

James Carroll

In this dramatic, intimate, and tragic memoir, James Carroll recovers a time that none of us will ever forget—a time when parents could no longer understand their sons and daughters and when young people could no longer recognize the country they had been raised to love. The wounds inflicted in that time have never fully healed, but healing is something that Carroll accomplishes in telling his family’s remarkable story.

The Carroll family stood at the center of all the conflicts swirling around the Vietnam War. Lieutenant General Joseph F. Carroll was the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency through most of the war, a former FBI man who helped choose bombing targets but distrusted his fellow generals who wanted to use the Bomb. His wife, Mary, was a devoted friend of Francis Cardinal Spellman, the hawkish military vicar, yet she felt sympathy for antiwar priests and tried to balance her devotion to her husband with…[more]

Book:Fruitful

Fruitful: A Real Mother in the Modern World

Anne Richardson Roiphe

In Fruitful, Roiphe tells the intimate, turbulent, compelling story of raising her own children in the gap between motherhood and feminism—and makes an eloquent plea for a new agenda. Roiphe’s life is a perfect microcosm of change in the American family over the past thirty years. Married and a mother in her early twenties, she soon became a divorced single parent, raising her young daughter on her own. Remarriage and new motherhood brought great joy but also the complications of combining families and raising stepchildren. With heartbreaking candor, she details the difficult adaptations and painful rebellions that haunt a parent’s conscience. Through it all, Roiphe keenly felt feminism’s discomfort with the question of motherhood. Allowing the conservative right to co-opt the issue of family, feminism has sometimes overlooked the very real emotional and economic needs of mother just trying to make it through the day. Here, Roiphe crafts a unique pro-feminist/pro-family position that calls for fruitful dialogue on quality childcare, on including men as full partners in parenting, on defining family in ways that allow everyone to thrive.

Book:The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller

The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer 1908-1958

Cary Reich

Of all the great American dynastic families, few could match the combined wealth, power, and influence of the Rockefellers. And of all the Rockefellers, none was more determined to use these advantages than Nelson A. Rockefeller.

Nelson was never content to live off the fame and fortune due him as a Rockefeller. His imperious grandfather, John D. Rockefeller, and intimidating father, John Jr., set standards and boundaries that Nelson blithely ignored. He pushed for position within the family, and then broke a family taboo by taking his ambition to the forbidden world of politics. A devoted family man, he took many lovers with an almost casual sense of droit du seigneur. He surrounded himself with brilliant, devoted subordinates; he flattered and cajoled more powerful people who would also end up serving his needs.

Handsome, ferociously energetic, charming, and ruthless, Rockefeller had a rapacious appetite for life—and for power—that…[more]

Book:The Living and the Dead

The Living and the Dead: Robert McNamara and Five Lives of a Lost War

Paul Hendrickson

More than the two presidents he served or the 58,000 soldiers who died for his policies, Robert McNamara was the official face of Vietnam, the technocrat with steel-rimmed glasses and an ironclad faith in numbers who kept insisting that the war was winnable long after he had ceased to believe it was. This brilliantly insightful, morally devastating book tells us why he believed, how he lost faith, and what his deceptions cost five of the war’s witnesses and McNamara himself.

In The Living and the Dead, Paul Hendrickson juxtaposes McNamara’s story with those of a wounded Marine, an Army nurse, a Vietnamese refugee, a Quaker who burned himself to death to protest the war, and an enraged artist who tried to kill the man he saw as the war’s architect. The result is a book whose exhaustive research and imaginative power turn history into an act of reckoning, damning and profoundly sympathetic, impossible to put down and impossible to forget.

Book:The Temple Bombing

The Temple Bombing

Melissa Fay Greene

On October 12, 1958, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue was blown apart by 50 sticks of dynamite. Suddenly, the Jewish Reform community found itself caught in the crossfire of white-black hostilities. As this historical narrative weaves together the emotional events that led to the bombing, it introduces us to brave warriors like Rabbi Jacob Rothschild, the lightning rod for the pre-dawn attack, as well as violent characters whose intolerance and rage shattered the illusions of a quiet people.

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