Annal: 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Biography

Results of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in the year 2009.

Book:Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits

Linda Gordon

We all know Dorothea Lange’s iconic photos—the “Migrant Mother” holding her child, the gaunt men forlornly waiting in breadlines—but few know the arc of her extraordinary life. In this sweeping account, renowned historian Linda Gordon charts Lange’s journey from polio-ridden child to wife and mother, to San Francisco portrait photographer, to chronicler of the Great Depression and World War II. Gordon uses Lange’s life to anchor a moving social history of twentieth-century America, re-creating the bohemian world of San Francisco, the Dust Bowl, and the Japanese American internment camps. She explores Lange’s growing radicalization as she embraced the democratic power of the camera, and she examines Lange’s entire body of work, reproducing more than one hundred images, many of them previously unseen and some of them formerly suppressed. Lange reminds us that beauty can be found in unlikely places, and that to respond to injustice, we must first simply learn how to see it.

Book:Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey

Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic

Michael Scammell

From award-winning author Michael Scammell comes a monumental achievement: the first authorized biography of Arthur Koestler, one of the most influential and controversial intellectuals of the twentieth century. Over a decade in the making, and based on new research and full access to its subject’s papers, Koestler is the definitive account of this fascinating and polarizing figure. Though best known as the creator of the classic anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon, Koestler is here revealed as much more–a man whose personal life was as astonishing as his literary accomplishments.

Koestler portrays the anguished youth of a boy raised in Budapest by a possessive and mercurial mother and an erratic father, marked for life by a forced operation performed without anesthesia when he was five, growing up feeling unloved and unprotected. Here is the young man whose experience of anti-Semitism and devotion to Zionism provoked him to move to Palestine; the…[more]

Book:Louis D. Brandeis: A Life

Louis D. Brandeis: A Life

Melvin I. Urofsky

The first full-scale biography in twenty-five years of one of the most important and distinguished justices to sit on the Supreme Court–a book that reveals Louis D. Brandeis the reformer, lawyer, and jurist, and Brandeis the man, in all of his complexity, passion, and wit.

Louis Dembitz Brandeis had at least four “careers.” As a lawyer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he pioneered how modern law is practiced. He, and others, developed the modern law firm, in which specialists manage different areas of the law. He was the author of the right to privacy; led the way in creating the role of the lawyer as counselor; and pioneered the idea of pro bono publico work by attorneys. As late as 1916, when Brandeis was nominated to the Supreme Court, the idea of pro bono service still struck many old-time attorneys as somewhat radical. …[more]

Book:The Uncrowned King

The Uncrowned King: The Sensational Rise of William Randolph Hearst

Kenneth Whyte

More than a century ago, a young William Randolph Hearst stormed the Manhattan publishing establishment and usurped Joseph Pulitzer as the dominant force in the most hotly contested newspaper market the world has ever seen. In three years, Hearst built the foundation of one of America’s greatest media empires, yet his reputation as a journalist has always been haunted by allegations of sensationalism, self-promotion, warmongering, and outright fakery.

In this major re-estimation of Hearst’s early years at his New York Journal, renowned newspaper editor and magazine publisher Kenneth Whyte brings to life the early career of the world’s first great media mogul. His lively, riveting, page-turning recreation of Hearst’s New York years reveals a progressive young man of high ideals and huge ambition: hardly the Citizen Kane of popular imagination. Bursting with larger-than-life personalities, The Uncrowned King is a provocative addition to the shelf of great books of popular social history—one that will change forever the way we remember one of the most powerful and fascinating citizens of the twentieth century.

Book:The Woman Behind the New Deal

The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life of Frances Perkins, FDR's Secretary of Labor and His Moral Conscience

Kirstin Downey

One of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s closest friends and the first female secretary of labor, Perkins capitalized on the president’s political savvy and popularity to enact most of the Depression-era programs that are today considered essential parts of the country’s social safety network.

Frances Perkins is no longer a household name, yet she was one of the most influential women of the twentieth century. Based on eight years of research, extensive archival materials, new documents, and exclusive access to Perkins’s family members and friends, this biography is the first complete portrait of a devoted public servant with a passionate personal life, a mother who changed the landscape of American business and society.

Frances Perkins was named Secretary of Labor by Franklin Roosevelt in 1933. As the first female cabinet secretary, she…[more]

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