Tag Archives: David Maraniss

A Good American Family

submitted by Stan Inhorn; photo my Margaret Murphy

David Maraniss 8 21 19

David Maraniss pictured here with Club President Andrea Kaminski

David Maraniss, Associate Editor of the The Washington Post and seasonal Madisonian, in his latest book, A Good American Family: The Red Scare and My Father, described the issues that his father faced as a result of becoming radicalized in the 1930s. To gain a better understanding of the history of his career, David visited the National Archives in D.C. in 2015. He found the transcript of a statement that his father, Elliott, wanted to read in an appearance before the House Unamerican Activities Committee in 1952. The title of the article was “What it means to be an American.” For the first time, David understood how difficult life was for his father in the subsequent years. He said that, of his twelve books, it was the most difficult book to write.

Elliott was born in Brooklyn during the depth of the Depression. At this time, many “isms” were arising – communism, fascism, anarchism, etc. During this time, Elliott became radicalized. Later he entered the University of Michigan where he became an accomplished writer. In 1944, he enlisted in the Army for Officer Training, and upon completion, he was assigned to lead an all-black unit. From his experiences in this assignment, he gained insight into one of the most serious wrongs that still persists in our society.

Elliott’s journalist career was affected by his early history as a radical, causing him to be fired from several newspaper editorships. These included the Detroit Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and a small paper in Iowa. During his work at the Iowa paper, he became a friend of William Evjue, editor of The Capital Times in Madison. Evjue invited Maraniss to join the staff in Madison, which he did in 1957.

David gave a brief thumbnail sketch of his latest book, which deals with how the lives of Elliott and his family dealt with all the many disruptions and problems affecting their collective and individual lives. Downtown Rotarians have been fortunate to have David as a summer Madisonian. This was his eight talk to Rotary.

If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here.

David Maraniss on Detroit

–submitted by Carol Toussaint

You could tell by the number of people working their way around the Inn on the Park construction site that the speaker on this Wednesday had attracted a crowd.  Indeed, one of Madison’s favorite sons was there again to share insights captured in a new book, ONCE in a GREAT CITY, a Detroit StoryDavid Maraniss was back with another great story for Rotarians and their guests.

As his talk revealed, Maraniss was more interested in why things had happened in and to Detroit than to simply chronicle the events that brought down a great city. In the author’s note to his book he wrote that “the city itself is the main character in this urban biography, though the populace includes many larger-than-life figures.”   These individuals played key roles in the drama that was Detroit in 1962-64.  We met them Wednesday and learned some surprising things about the many ways each contributed to the vibrant city.

Whether it was the story of the launching of the Ford Mustang or the touching memories that talented performers shared about the creative side of the city, Maraniss researched through interviews as well as documents.  The migration of African Americans from the South to jobs in Detroit influenced the development of the Motown music and the stories of the prominent stars, many of whom rose from modest beginnings, are well represented in the book.

Reading Maraniss’ book is a bit like receiving a postcard from your favorite cousin who visited Detroit in 1963 and reported that “it had everything!”  Rotarians got a sense of what was behind the “everything” and enjoyed the inside view of it all.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  CLICK to watch the video.