Monday, January 5, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Ida M. Tarbell by Emily Arnold McCully

I had only a vague idea of who Ida Tarbell was before I read this book. I knew she was a journalist and influential in the early 1900s....and that was about it.

This book starts with her childhood in the oil boom in Pennsylvania and traces her complicated, controversial life until her death in 1944. During her lifetime she met presidents, was friends with Jane Addams, influenced anti-trust legislature, and changed the world. She also opposed women's suffrage, advocated that women stay home and not go out to work, and struggled with a world that was changing around her and, as she saw it, attacking the values of home and family she so deeply valued despite never marrying herself.

This is a compassionate and beautifully written biography of a complex figure. McCully doesn't attempt to excuse Tarbell's life but presents it from a sympathetic perspective, inviting the reader to be inspired by her contributions and understand the very human figure behind them.

The author's note explains how she came to write this biography; "Ida can still be admired, but she also has to be explained." Photographs and ephemera - newspaper cartoons, etc. fill the book. Back matter includes sources, bibliography, and index.

Verdict: This is an amazing book, well-deserving of an award. However, it's most definitely not for a middle grade audience. The complex person represented, including frank discussions of historical events and attitudes, is aimed at a young adult audience. That's a drawback for me, since the only young adult biographies that circulate for me are more inspirational/memoir type things. I can't justify purchasing this for my library, but it would be a must for a larger library with a more diverse audience.

ISBN: 9780547290928; Published 2013 by Clarion; Borrowed from another library in my consortium

No comments: