cover image Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury

Drew Gilpin Faust. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $30 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-60180-5

Former Harvard president Faust (This Republic of Suffering) nimbly blends the personal and the political in this affecting memoir that covers her life from 1947 (the year she was born) through 1968. Faust, who was raised in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, had difficult relationships with both of her parents: her WWII veteran father was perpetually disengaged, and her upper-class mother was often angry. Disenchanted with their conservative worldviews, Faust forged her own, shaped by the literature of the era, including To Kill a Mockingbird and The Diary of Anne Frank. Her outrage at racist discrimination led a nine-year-old Faust to write to then President Eisenhower to share her feelings that a segregated society was an unjust one (the memoir opens with a photocopy of this letter). Faust furthered her focus on “notions of justice, equality and patriotism” at Bryn Mawr College as a student activist and protester against Jim Crow and the Vietnam War. Her epilogue closes on a note of hope, looking ahead to the moment in 2008 when her home state of Virginia “cast its electoral ballots for the first Black president.” Faust pulls off a brilliant synthesis, grounding the macro stresses of the period in her quest to distance herself from her culture of origin and sharpen her political sensibilities. A follow-up volume exploring her life after 1968 would be more than welcome. (Aug.)