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What is it like to be America's First Family? This wonderfully engaging and anecdotal book by Bonnie Angelo, author of the acclaimed First Mothers, tells the story of the wives, children, extended families, and pets as well as the presidents who have lived in the White House. This unique book provides a lively look at how presidential families learned to cope with the demands and grandeur imposed on them and worked to create a home in a beloved but often stifling national monument.
Over the years the White House has become a living force, shaping and warping the families it shelters. Its residents quickly learn that in return for its many perks and four-star service, the White House makes its own demands on them -- while it enhances their status, it curtails their lives and imposes unwanted duties. Jacqueline Kennedy was not the only member of a new First Family who thought, "I felt as if I had just turned into a piece of public property."
Angelo probes two hundred years of American history to tell the story of real life within the White House walls. As a longtime correspondent for Time magazine, she witnessed and reported about much that has happened in the White House over the last four decades. In this book Angelo chronicles exhilarating moments and dark days in the lives of the First Families and the nation, with behind-the-headline accounts of the stirrings of love, the joyful weddings, the tragic deaths of children and spouses, the squabbles of marriage, the glittering evenings and glaring mistakes all occurring within the same historic rooms. Through it all, the families constantly struggle to keep their lives private from the public domain.
Here are the unique pleasures and pains of a vast array of characters, from activist wives Hillary Clinton and Eleanor Roosevelt to reluctant occupants Bess Truman and Jacqueline Kennedy to those who embraced their new address and status such as Mary Todd Lincoln, Dolley Madison, and the rollicking sons of Theodore Roosevelt. Written by an inimitable storyteller, First Families is an unforgettable human portrait of presidents and their families during their White House years.
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Bonnie Angelo is the author of First Mothers. During her more than twenty-five years with Time magazine, she has reported on the White House and has covered newsmakers and events across America and the world. She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and New York City.From Publishers Weekly:
Veteran Time correspondent Angelo (First Mothers: The Women Who Shaped the Presidents) makes the lives of those who either loved or loathed their sojourns in the White House as irresistible as a gossip column. Although some of her stories are well known—such as Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt's distant relationship and Nancy Reagan's devotion to her husband—Angelo has gleaned fresh nuggets from history as well as her personal contacts from a long journalistic career. Andrew Jackson, for example, gave an eight-year-old slave as a christening gift to a relative named after his deceased, beloved wife. President Taft was so fat he got stuck in the presidential bathtub. Lemonade Lucy Hayes banned alcohol at state dinners, but she was undermined by rum punch hidden in platters of oranges. Angelo is particularly skilled at describing the difficulties White House children, including Lyndon Johnson's daughters and Amy Carter, had adjusting to life in a fish bowl. Angelo does, however, ramble, with loosely organized subjects rather than a chronological narrative, and doesn't anchor less familiar figures, like the families of presidents Polk and Pierce, in historical context. 16 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
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