The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings A Five-Generation History of the Ultimate Irish-Catholic Family

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9780465043170: The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings A Five-Generation History of the Ultimate Irish-Catholic Family

Meticulously researched both here and abroad, THE KENNEDYS examines the Kennedy's as exemplars of the Irish Catholic experience. Beginning with Patrick Kennedy's arrival in the Brahmin world of Boston in 1848, Maier delves into the deeper currents of the often spectacular Kennedy story, and the ways in which their immigrant background shaped their values-and in turn twentieth-century America-for over five generations. As the first and only Roman Catholic ever elected to high national office in this country, JFK's pioneering campaign for president rested on a tradition of navigating a cultural divide that began when Joseph Kennedy shed the brogues of the old country in order to get ahead on Wall Street. Whether studied exercise in cultural self-denial or sheer pragmatism, their movements mirror that of countless of other, albeit less storied, American families. But as much as the Kennedys distanced themselves from their religion and ethnic heritage on the public stage, Maier shows how Irish Catholicism informed many of their most well-known political decisions and stances. From their support of civil rights, to Joe Kennedy's tight relationship with Pope Pius XII and FDR, the impact of their personal family history on the national scene is without question-and makes for an immensely compelling narrative. Bringing together extensive new research in both Ireland and the United States, several exclusive interviews, as well as his own perspective as an Irish-American, Maier's original approach to the Kennedy era brilliantly illustrates the defining role of the immigrant experience for the country's foremost political dynasty.

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From the Inside Flap :

"Be more Irish than Harvard," inscribed Robert Frost in the book of poetry he gave to John F. Kennedy at the 1961 presidential inauguration. With these simple words, Frost hit upon the experience that defined America's favorite political dynasty for over five generations: their Irish Catholicism. As acclaimed journalist Thomas Maier reveals in The Kennedys: America's Emerald Kings, their ethnicity, religion, and cultural background molded the Kennedy family to the core-both bolstering their stunning successes and coloring their spectacular tragedies.

Drawing on groundbreaking research both here and abroad, Maier shows how their Irish Catholic immigrant heritage was far more central to the Kennedy experience than they or any previous chroniclers have allowed. John F. Kennedy's historic climb to the White House-as the first and only religious minority ever elected to the American presidency-is only a fraction of this story.

Beginning with Patrick Kennedy's arrival in the Brahmin world of Boston in 1848, Maier delves into the family saga's deeper personal and emotional currents. He allows us to see family patriarch Joe Kennedy not just as a brilliant American businessman and powermonger, but as a fierce Irish chieftain who suffers loss after tragic loss. And in moving detail, he reveals Jackie Kennedy's thoughts of suicide after her husband's 1963 assassination, as recalled in letters, diaries and an interview with her priest-confessor.

For the first time, this dramatic work of reportage also lays bare the intricate connections that link the family's most well-known stances and decisions with this storied heritage. From the Kennedy's close relationship with the Vatican, including deal-brokering between FDR and Pope Pius XII, on through the role of American cardinals in the 1960 presidential election, to the family's deep roots in Ireland's struggle for freedom, including Kennedy cousin ties to the old IRA, Maier illuminates once secret negotiations and hitherto unacknowledged loyalties. Casting new light on the Kennedys' struggles with race, anti-Semitism, the sexual mores of the Catholic Church, and even on John F. Kennedy's A Nation of Immigrants, the result is a revelatory glimpse at a remarkable intersection of private beliefs and public politics.

In crafting this intimate portrait, Maier was granted access to newly available personal papers from the Joseph P. Kennedy archive at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and several never-before-published photos from the Kennedy Family Collection. His account relies upon on-the-record interviews as well as research in Ireland, at the Vatican, and throughout the United States. Bringing together exclusive comments from Sen. Edward Kennedy, former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and many others, Thomas Maier tells the story of the Kennedys in an entirely new way-and weaves a spellbinding, uniquely American epic.

About the Author :

Thomas Maier is a staff reporter at New York Newsday . He is also the author of the critically acclaimed Dr. Spock: An American Life , a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in East Northport, New York.

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