cover image The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation

The Browns of California: The Family Dynasty That Transformed a State and Shaped a Nation

Miriam Pawel. Bloomsbury, $35 (480p) ISBN 978-1-63286-733-9

Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Pawel (The Crusades of Cesar Chavez) continues to explore the California political landscape with this well-written and deeply researched dual biography of the late Pat Brown, the state’s governor from 1959 to 1967, and his son Jerry Brown, who was governor from 1975 to 1983 and reelected in 2011. The senior Brown is fairly described as a traditional politician whose career had a traditional trajectory, while son Jerry—called “Governor Moonbeam” by a Chicago newspaper columnist—is anything but: in addition to a peripatetic political career that included three runs at the Democratic presidential nomination, a term as California’s attorney general, and time as the mayor of Oakland, Calif., Jerry’s personal history involved formative years as a novice in a Jesuit seminary and a serious investigation of Buddhism. Pawel returns again and again to the connection between Pat and Jerry, who were respectful and tender toward one another despite their differences. She also underscores the powerful influence of women—specifically Bernice Brown, Pat’s wife of 66 years and Jerry’s mother; Anne Gust Brown, whom Jerry married late in life; and Jerry’s sister Kathleen, who made her own run at California’s governorship in 1994—in the two men’s lives. The backdrop for all of this is the rich history of California, illuminated with small historical details that are a testament to Pawel’s research. In her capable hands, readers will find the Browns and California captivating subjects. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis. (Sept.)