cover image After the Miracle: The Political Crusades of Helen Keller

After the Miracle: The Political Crusades of Helen Keller

Max Wallace. Grand Central, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5387-0768-5

In this revealing biography, journalist and filmmaker Wallace (In the Name of Humanity) shifts the focus from Helen Keller’s much-mythologized childhood to her lifelong engagement with radical politics and progressive causes. An avowed socialist, Keller argued that the most effective way to address disability was to combat the inequalities and injustices of the capitalist system. She also spoke out against both world wars and in favor of women’s suffrage and access to birth control, and condemned Jim Crow segregation and South African apartheid. Keller’s willingness to take controversial public stances—including, for a brief period, in support of eugenics—strained her relationships with the American Federation for the Blind and other disability rights groups, and Wallace uncovers numerous instances in which Keller was persuaded to issue statements that pacified donors and preserved her status as an appealing inspirational figure. Still, Keller’s prominence protected her from the consequences suffered by other radicals, and Wallace departs from other Keller biographers in suggesting that she was a “fellow traveler” with the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s and maintained her admiration for the Soviet experiment even into the 1950s. Meticulous research and the author’s nuanced perspective make this is an enlightening study of Keller’s fierce commitment to justice. Agent: John Pearce and Chris Casuccio, Westwood Creative Artists. (Apr.)