cover image FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America, 1932–1939

FDR's Alphabet Soup: New Deal America, 1932–1939

Tonya Bolden, . . Knopf, $19.99 (136pp) ISBN 978-0-375-85214-5

Bolden's (George Washington Carver ) vivid and well-researched account of America's New Deal comprises detail-packed chapters bursting with acronyms, explanatory sidebars, margins filled with quotations, and b&w photos. The concise, conversational style and sometimes glib tone (“Had Giuseppe Zangara been an ace assassin, FDR would have been Dead Man of the Year”) keeps the narrative lively, helping readers make sense of a complex set of issues and policies. The many acronyms (FERA, NRA, RFC, SPA, etc.) often necessitate flipping back for reference, and, as the title suggests, it can be difficult to keep them straight. The book excels at contextualizing FDR's new programs and agencies within the political landscape and in noting how they affected minorities, women, labor, and the arts. Bolden also highlights opposition to New Deal policies. She doesn't skew judgment about the programs' effectiveness, though a concluding half-page chapter notes, “[T]here is consensus that the New Deal did not kick [the Great Depression] out, but that World War II did.” An author's note compares FDR's era to today's economic crisis, and a glossary defines terms and acronyms. Ages 12–up. (Jan.)