Today’s book review, the book Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century by author John Paul Godges, is not from the LGBT genre, per se. Instead, it’s a family history that takes us from immigration from the “old world” to the startlingly different portrait of a modern American family.
An extended Italian immigrant family clings to community life amid tragedy, the Spanish flu, Prohibition, and the Great Depression. A broken Polish immigrant family leaves a legacy of heartbreak, separation, Civilian Conservation Corps redemption, and World War II heroism. From these dissimilar backgrounds emerges a quintessential American family, one whose members embody the conflicting social movements of their times: a staunchly Catholic Polish immigrant U.S. Marine Corps father, an emotionally effusive Italian mother, an Oliver North son, a Hillary Clinton daughter, a mentally ill sister, a jock brother, a lesbian rocker, and a gay male activist. In an age of bitter cultural polarization, Oh, Beautiful: An American Family in the 20th Century celebrates what has kept America together. This true story is an engrossing portrait of an American family and an evocative documentation of nearly 100 years of American history.
One reviewer remarked:
“A satisfying, well-crafted reminder of how one family’s story can encapsulate the cultural history of America as a whole.”
I think that really says it all about this book!
Now, I admit, regardless of my current 2nd class citizen status due to my lack of Constitutional rights and protections, I love this country and I served it proudly in uniform for 22 years. This book served as a great reminder of all of the things I love about it. It let me put aside our current political ills and infighting and think about the things we do get right. Also, admittedly, my own family is the same sort of mix of immigrants, soldiers, good eggs, bad eggs and everything in between. I couldn’t help but draw parallels. When you read this, you’ll do the same.
The author, John Paul Godges, is the “gay male activist” in the synopsis above. This is the story of his own family. Godges is a well educated man with advanced degrees in journalism (with a focus on theology) and public policy. He writes with the neutrality of a well trained journalist but uses the imagery of a top novelist to set the scene and capture the reader. This book will draw you in from page one.
I leave you with this; a portion of a review from Amazon by individual reader Scott Schulz that says something else I felt about this book quite nicely:
Oh, Beautiful is not an overtly political work; nevertheless, it contains a profoundly political message. The traditionalists and the right constantly endeavor to claim sole proprietorship of what it means to be American. They are often oblivious to their own history. We are almost entirely a nation of immigrants who came here for the promise of economic opportunity, political freedom and equality under the law. As a book that explores a single family whose political views span the spectrum in every generation, we find a fully realized, dangerous view that America is all of us: the narrow-minded reactionaries AND the wide-ranging liberals.