cover image Mama's Girl

Mama's Girl

Veronica Chambers. Riverhead Hardcover, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-030-9

This involving biography, sympathetic but not sycophantic, presents Jesse Jackson as a ""deeply contrary"" American figure with ambitions personal and collective, transcendent and corporeal. White Southerner Frady (Wallace) writes in Faulknerian cadences, preferring character study to policy analysis. His access to his subject-and his capacity to render Jackson's vernacular-captures important stories. There is much here: the illegitimacy that spurred Jackson's identification with outcasts; the never-quite-clear story of his cradling the assassinated Martin Luther King Jr.; the marvelous ""gospel-egalitarian militancy"" that Operation Breadbasket used to create black economic power in Chicago; the infamous courting of the media. Frady acknowledges strong evidence of Jackson's adulteries and the missteps that alienated Jews. Still, he argues that Jackson's presidential runs were actually prophetic, presaging the populist ideas that won Clinton his presidency. To Frady, Jackson has suffered from the lack of a clear social crisis to ""match his King-scale aspirations""; his intimate portrait of Jackson's negotiations to release hostages in Iraq shows a man of notable gifts. Photos not seen by PW. Author tour. (June)