cover image Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Upton Sinclair: California Socialist, Celebrity Intellectual

Lauren Coodley. Univ. of Nebraska/Bison, $28.95 (264p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4382-8

Known primarily as the author of The Jungle (written when he was only 25), Upton Sinclair went on to produce nearly 80 more books, and, as discussed in this skillful biography, worked as an activist for causes including the labor, temperance, and women’s rights movements. Historian Coodley (California: A Multicultural Documentary History) narrates little-known aspects of Sinclair’s life, such as his gubernatorial campaign in California in 1934, in which he faced a barrage of attacks from newspapers and Hollywood studios; these tactics disgusted so many involved that it helped create “a liberal climate in Hollywood.” Born in Baltimore in 1878, Sinclair learned about political action from his mother, a determined temperance supporter. Indeed, Sinclair had seen the effects of drink on his alcoholic father. He threw himself into his activism, frequently risking, and at times enduring, arrest. In addition, he befriended many female leaders of the movements he supported, such as Margaret Sanger and Jane Addams. Workers’ rights were his first love: Sinclair hoped that readers of his celebrated book The Jungle would be outraged by “the brutality that the workers [portrayed in the book] endured.” Coodley’s biography should renew interest in the works of this passionate writer. 27 illus. (Sept.)