If history is written by the victors, as the old adage goes, then revisiting and questioning stories of the past are necessary pursuits. Karina Longworth, host of the You Must Remember This podcast, dives into Old Hollywood secrets to uncover the real stories of famed actors’ lives in her latest book, Seduction. Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series is also reanalyzed in light of the author’s portrayals of American Indian characters. A recovered work by Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon, tells the story of Cudjo Lewis (née Oluale Kossola), the “last living survivor of the transatlantic slave trade.” Though the book—and Kossola’s story—never reached the public during Hurston’s lifetime because it was written largely in Kossola’s vernacular English, readers can now delve into a recounting of immense resilience, without the trappings of romanticization.
When it comes to well-known historical figures, a contemporary reexamination can reveal something new. The historian David W. Blight lasers in on the legacy of Frederick Douglass to explore the contradictions within the abolitionist’s ideology. Recent history, too, warrants reflection, and Atlantic writer Rachel Donadio looks back on some of the French works written in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015.
Each week in the Books Briefing, we thread together Atlantic stories on books that share similar ideas, and ask you for recommendations of what our list left out. Check out past issues here. Know other book lovers who might like this guide? Forward them this email.
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Unpacking the myths of Old Hollywood
“The stories [Karina] Longworth uncovers—about Katharine Hepburn and Jane Russell, yes, but also Ida Lupino and Faith Domergue and Anita Loos—are so rich, so compelling, that they urge you to question how much else in history has been lost within the swirling vortex of Great Men.”