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Letters to Jackie: Condolences from a Grieving Nationby Ellen Fitzpatrick
Synopses & Reviews
It is perhaps the most memorable event of the twentieth century, a moment that left a family and a nation mourning, one that many Americans recall as their first historical memory—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
Within seven weeks of the President's death, Jacqueline Kennedy received more than 800,000 condolence letters. Two years later, the volume of correspondence would exceed 1.5 million letters. For the next forty-six years, the letters would remain essentially untouched.
Now historian Ellen Fitzpatrick has selected approximately 250 of these letters for inclusion in Letters to Jackie, a remarkable human record that perfectly preserves the heart-wrenching grief and soul searching of the nation in a time of crisis. Capturing the extraordinary eloquence of so-called ordinary Americans across generations, regions, race, political leanings, and religion—in messages written on elegant stationery, scraps of paper, in pencil, type, ink smudged by tears, and in barely legible handwriting—the letters capture what John F. Kennedy meant to the country, and how his death for some divided American history into Before and After.
In Letters to Jackie, Fitzpatrick allows Americans to write their own history of these tumultuous times. "The coffin was very small," as one sixteen-year-old girl observed, "to contain so much of so many Americans." In reflecting on their sense of loss, their fears, and their striving, the authors of these letters wrote an American elegy as poignant and as compelling as their shattered and cherished dreams.
"The national struggle to make sense of President Kennedy's assassination included an outpouring of mail sent to Kennedy's much-loved widow, Jacqueline, some 800,000 letters, which had been in storage until professor and author Fitzpatrick (History's Memory: Writing America's Past) took on the Herculean task of curating them. Here, she attempts to create a meaningful narrative out of the nation's massive record of grief-a real anomaly in a time when writing to public figures was frowned upon-by examining different groups (widows, African Americans, children) and examining the impact Kennedy made on every American, regardless of politics, which lead ultimately to his legend. Despite its power and significance, the material is repetitive and may overwhelm; those with the patience to wade through, however, will be rewarded with a you-are-there feel for this turning point in history." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“A terrific, original, and important work….Fitzpatrick provides a stunningly fresh look at the impact of JFKs assassination on the American people.”
—Doris Kearns Goodwin
For Letters to Jackie, noted historian and News Hour with Jim Lehrer commentator Ellen Fitzpatrick combed through literally thousands of condolence messages sent by ordinary Americans to Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of her husband, President John F. Kennedy, in 1963. The first book ever to examine this extraordinary collection, Letters to Jackie presents 250 intimate, heartfelt, eye-opening responses to what was arguably the most devastating event in twentieth century America, providing a fascinating perspective on a singular time in the history of our nation.
Noted historian and The News Hour with Jim Lehrer commentator Ellen Fitzpatrick culls 300 of the thousands of condolence letters written to Jacqueline Kennedy following the assassination of her husband in the first book to ever examine this extraordinary collection.
It is perhaps the most memorable moment from the 20th centurya moment that left a family and a nation mourning, a moment that many recall as their first historical memorythe assassination of President Kennedy.
Within seven weeks of the President's death, Jacqueline Kennedy had already received over 800,000 condolence letters. In the two years following President Kennedy's death, the volume of correspondence exceeded a million and half letters.
The letters, essentially untouched for 46 years, bring to life the hope, idealism, and sense of possibility JFK embodied to many Americans during his brief presidency, and how his death inspired a universal and profound sense of purpose and sadness, the feeling that our countr
About the Author
Ellen Fitzpatrick, a professor and scholar specializing in modern American political and intellectual history, is the author and editor of six books and has appeared regularly on PBSs The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She has been interviewed as an expert on modern American political history by the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, CBS's Face the Nation, and National Public Radio. The Carpenter Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire, where she has been recognized for Excellence in Public Service, Fitzpatrick lives in Newton, Massachusetts.
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