Geraldine Brooks is best known for the novel’s The Good Woman’s House and Goodbye, Love You Forever. A former writer for Reader’s Digest, Brooks has also worked for numerous magazines including Lucky Number 13 and Town and Country. She is now a professor at the Center for Children and Families at the University of New Mexico. A former cover model for Vogue Magazine, Brooks is well-known for her wise and witty writing on family issues. In her latest novel, March, she offers a refreshingly honest look at marriage and divorce, as well as the often complicated issues surrounding young children and aging parents.
Geraldine Brooks was born in Depression-era Texas, where her family had little to no financial support. Her mother would take whatever was offered, and when her father died, she was forced to care for her younger siblings and herself. Brooks also endured physical and mental abuse at the hands of her own mother as a child, which left her with a deep hatred of authority in general. After earning a degree in education from the University of Texas, Brooks decided to write about topics that deal with everyday life in America, and she hoped that by writing books focusing on middle-class families, she could help bring about social change.
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While Brooks has written many nonfiction books on a wide variety of subjects, March is the first book of hers that focuses on an aspect of American life that many Americans are unaware of: foreign correspondence. With a myriad of settings, from the early 1800s to modern times, Brooks takes readers through the written word between prominent Americans and leaders from across the globe. For example, while we are familiar with letters between John F. Kennedy and Khrushcha Ban Ki Moon, we might not have heard of letters between Brooks and former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt on subjects ranging from their childhoods to foreign correspondence.
Although March contains some humorous moments, such as a letter from a Chinese communist complaining about American mistreatment of minorities, it is really no different than any other book about American public life. The book is just over 100 pages long and covers both domestic and international topics, as well as personal experiences and professional issues. Geraldine Brooks was raised to believe that her role as a journalist had nothing to do with her becoming a journalist. As a child, she would spend hours reading aloud from her father’s copy of The Times and would then jot down the events in her own words. It was only when she decided to become a writer that she truly started to see the influence of her father’s voice through The New York Times and The Saturday Night Lights.
In her many years as a reporter for The Saturday Night Lights, Brooks covered many important and popular stories, including the Gulf War, the AIDS crisis, the Iran-Contra Affair, and the Oklahoma City bombing. But perhaps one of her most important stories was that she chronicled the plight of the Lebanese people during the AIDS epidemic. As she wrote in her book, when Beirut was being demolished by Israeli forces, it was literally a dog eat dog fight between the desperate residents and the Jews who were occupying their homes. Brooks also found herself deeply connected to the conflict because of the complex personal and cultural dynamics between the Jews and the Arabs in that region. She covered the rise of Hezbollah and the resistance of civilians as they fought the Jews there.
The most recent of these books is Broke Down in Syria. This time around, Brooks turns her lens even more inward, looking into how ordinary people in Syria and in Lebanese communities across the world to fight for their right to have a say in how their country is run. While still compiling her well-known material, Brooks is now interviewing local leaders and citizens for the first time to try and gain a wider perspective of how these conflicts are playing out on the ground. More than a few of the stories she has shared in her other books have been previously published, but this one offers an unprecedented look inside the workings of post-war Syria and Lebanon. It is not an easily read work because of the heavy focus on the minutiae of day-to-day life. But anyone with an interest in the workings of international relations and contemporary journalism will find this collection worth reading.