MY FATHER'S BONUS MARCH by Adam Langer
Publisher Spiegel & Grau, October 20, 2009
To his friends, Seymour Langer was one of the brightest kids to emerge
from Chicagoís Depression-era Jewish West Side. To his family, he was a
driven and dedicated physician, a devoted father and husband. But to his
youngest son, Langer was also an enigma: a somewhat distant figure to whom
he could never quite measure up; a worldly man who never left the city of
Chicago during the last third of his life; a would-be author who spoke for
years of writing a history of the Bonus March of 1932, when 20,000 World War
I veterans descended on the nationís capitol to demand compensation.
Using this dramatic but overlooked event in U.S. history as a way into
understanding a father-son relationship, Adam Langer sets out to uncover why
the Bonus March intrigued his father, whose own personal history always
seemed to be artfully obscured by a mix of evasiveness and exaggeration.
Langer interweaves the history of the Bonus March and interviews with such
individuals as Bonus March aficionado Senator John Kerry, and the
influential writer and critic Norman Podhoretz, with his own reminiscences
and those of his fatherís relatives, colleagues, and contemporaries. In the
process, he explores the nature of memory while creating a moving,
multi-layered portrait of both his father and his fatherís generation.
"At last--a memoir that understands the deepest mission of first person
narrator which is to be a steward of history. Adam Langer's magnificent
documentary work in MY FATHER'S BONUS MARCH is a meticulous reconstruction,
part detective story, part elegy, and altogether alluring in its fine
attention and relentless search into the Depression and out again. This
remarkable book comes to us just when we need it and has an uncanny and
haunting resonance for our times."
-- Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist's Daughter and
"MY FATHER'S BONUS MARCH is a brilliant and beautiful work of memory, a hymn
to boyhood, a hymn to Chicago, that somber city, driven by the need that
drives all those rare books that you know, on first encountering, you will
re-read and cherish--the need to get back what has been lost."
-- Rich Cohen, author of Sweet and Low, Tough Jews, and
Israel Is Real.
"A wonderful, heartfelt book."
-- Ken Burns, author of The Civil War, Jazz, Baseball
"MY FATHER'S BONUS MARCH is a fascinating and touching book, part personal
memoir, part history. Its examination of the Bonus March of 1932 through the
eyes of father and son is an extraordinary exhibition of the personal
meanings of history."
-- Scott Turow, author of Presumed Innocent
"Chicago's own bard, Studs Terkel, would be proud, maybe even envious, of
Adam Langer's terrific tale. He weaves American history, his father's
Depression era coming of age, and his own experience growing up in the '70s
and '80s into a narrative quilt so artful it covers a reader's sensibility
with warmth and beauty. This is truly a multigenerational treat..."
-- Peter Davis, Academy-Award winning directory of Hearts and Minds