A Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist's panoramic history of California and its impact on the nation, from the Gold Rush to Silicon Valley-told through the lens of the family dynasty that has led the state for nearly a quarter century.
Miriam Pawel’s fascinating book ... bills her family saga as a 'lens through which to tell a unique history of the 31st state,' but it does much more. Her engaging narrative of the politics, ideas and policies of the two Edmund Browns illuminates the sea change in the nation’s politics in the last half of the 20th century ... Pawel portrays Brown as a thoughtful visionary whose faith in the emancipatory potential of the free market helped usher in the nation’s second Gilded Age. Neoliberal economic policies, often associated with conservative Republicans, appealed to iconoclastic Democrats like Brown, who were hostile to bureaucracy and skeptical of establishment institutions. But Jerry Brown’s counterculturally-inflected distrust of government has helped make liberal California the poverty capital of America.
Pawel’s narrative is unflaggingly direct, but it also functions as deep art, for the book is actually a history of California posing as a family portrait. Whether it’s the Gold Rush, Japanese internment, Free Speech Movement, Watts riots, Proposition 13 or climate change, the Brown story reflects large portions of California’s past and much of its present. Politics is often the topic at hand; at other times, it takes its place in a larger social tableau ... Although much of the spotlight falls on Pat and Jerry Brown, Pawel gives full consideration to Kathleen Brown’s career, including her term as state treasurer and 1994 gubernatorial bid. We also learn a great deal about Pat’s mother, Ida Schuckman Brown; his wife, Bernice; and Anne Gust Brown, Jerry’s wife. They are presented not as foils or assistants, but rather as distinctive figures with their own goals, dispositions and accomplishments ... By reminding us that a single family has produced so much of the state’s leadership, Pawel’s skillful portrait also raises an imminent question: What’s next?
In a multigenerational saga that focuses on governors Pat and Jerry Brown, veteran journalist Miriam Pawel has written a vivid history of a political dynasty that has governed the Golden State for nearly a quarter century ... Deftly contrasting Pat’s era of boom-boom public spending with Jerry’s focus on fiscal restraint, Ms. Pawel paints a powerful portrait of this complex but loving father-son relationship ... Ms. Pawel recognizes the limits of attempting to write the definitive book on a family dynasty while its scion is still in power ... Future historians may not treat the Browns so kindly. But Ms. Pawel, with her extensive interviews, deep archival research and brilliant synthesis, has made an enormous contribution to the historical record.