Synopses & Reviews
Admirers and detractors use the same words to describe Jessica Mitford: subversive, mischief-maker, muckraker. J.K. Rowling calls her her most influential writer.” Those who knew her best simply called her Decca. Born into one of Britains most famous aristocratic families, she eloped with Winston Churchills nephew as a teenager. Their marriage severed ties with her privilege, a rupture exacerbated by the life she lead for seventy-eight years.
After arriving in the United States in 1939, Decca became one of the New Deals most notorious bureaucrats. For her the personal was political, especially as a civil rights activist and journalist. She coined the term frenemies, and as a member of the American Communist Party, she made several, though not among the Cold War witch hunters. When she left the Communist Party in 1958 after fifteen years, she promised to be subversive whenever the opportunity arose. True to her word, late in life she hit her stride as a writer, publishing nine books before her death in 1996.
Yoked to every important event for nearly all of the twentieth century, Decca not only was defined by the history she witnessed, but by bearing witness, helped to define that history.
"Journalist and limousine-radical Mitford (1917 1996) gets her due in this breezy and thoroughly researched biography. From a classically colorful English family of women--including Nancy, the novelist, as well as two others who had intimate ties to Adolf Hitler--Jessica very much went her own way socially and politically. She married a distant relative of similar leftist ideals who was better known as Winston Churchill's nephew. The couple settled in Washington, D.C., amid fellow travelers. But when her husband was tragically killed in action in WWII, it was a turning point in her life. Her second husband was an epileptic Ivy League educated New York Jew and radical lawyer. With their growing family, the pair moved to the Bay Area, becoming involved with the civil rights movement beginning in the late 1940s, and were called as Communists to testify before HUAC. Mitford hit her stride in midlife, publishing the memoir Daughters and Rebels in 1960 and three years later The American Way of Death, winning the sobriquet 'Queen of the Muckrakers' from Time magazine. Mitford's talents for schmoozing and recruiting lefties are well chronicled by Brody (Red Star Sister), in as much an evocation of quite different times as biography. 16 pages of photos. (Oct.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
Praise for Irrepressible
"Defying the odds, Leslie Brody has produced an excellent biography. Brody has made the world a better place by telling [Mitford's] saga so skillfully." San Francisco Chronicle
With passion, commitment, and a keen sense of adventurethe same qualities that defined her famous subjectLeslie Brody presents Jessica Decca Mitford as the delightfully complicated character she was: aristocrat, Communist, civil rights activist, mother, author, American dreamer. In brisk but sympathetic prose that will resonate even with those totally unfamiliar with Mitford, Brody traces the fascinating evolution of a woman whose life was shaped by the great political forces of her time, yet who always stayed true to herself and her personal vision. Irrepressible is a great, all-encompassing narrative in the age of niche.” Erin Aubry Kaplan, author of I, The People
Such a refreshing biography of Decca! What an inspiration Leslie Brodys calm yet always vivid history should be to young rebellious souls oppressed by the gloomy cul-de-sac into which our national politics have drifted. Heres the story of a true rebel in the finest traditions of upper-class English women who kicked over the traces. Deccas journey took her from Republican Spain to Oakland, California. Brody is never better than when describing the energy and idealism of Communists in those vicious postwar years and Deccas humor and enormous bravery in the face of real physical danger.” Alexander Cockburn