Susan Rubenstein DeMasi
The Driving Force Behind the New Deal Federal Writers' Project
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in JournalismNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network June 1, 2017 Mark Klobas
Over the course of a long and adventurous life, Henry Alsberg was guided by the constancy of his passion for radical causes. This focus, as Susan Rubenstein DeMasi makes clear in Henry Alsberg: The Driving Force Behind the New Deal Federal Writers’ Project (McFarland, 2016) defined both his varied career choices and his greatest achievements. Alsbeg’s radicalism was a constant of his life from an early age, and led him to abandon his initial employment as a lawyer for more fulfilling work as a journalist and author. After several years in revolution-plagued eastern Europe as a correspondent during and after the First World War, Alsberg returned to the United States to become a theater producer. Despite the success of his English-language translation of the play The Dybbuk, by the time the Great Depression hit in the early 1930s Alsberg was facing the same challenges as millions of other Americans in finding work. Not only did the New Deals Federal Writers’ Project provide him with employment but, as DeMasi demonstrates, with projects such as the multivolume American Guide and the compiling of the oral histories of former slaves he shepherded some of the most enduring cultural legacies of the era, ones which serve as monuments to his own blend of political values and artistic creativity.