Rebel Cinderella: Rose Pastor Stokes: Sweatshop Immigrant, Aristocrat’s Wife, Socialist Crusader
By Adam Hochschild. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 303 pages, $30.)
She may be forgotten now, but Rose Pastor Stokes was a big name in the early 1900s. Her Cinderella story filled the front pages of newspapers: Young Jewish immigrant escapes the toil of a Cleveland cigar factory for success as a journalist, then celebrity as the bride of a member of New York City’s high society. She got an island as a wedding present. What other socialite uses her island as a haven for Socialist Party activists?
In “Rebel Cinderella,” noted historian Adam Hochschild dusts off the story of this rags-to-riches-to-rags firebrand. Rose Pastor and Graham Stokes were an “it” couple: good looking, well-meaning, save-the-world types. They were leading socialists at a time when the Socialist Party was embraced as a remedy to the abuses of capitalist Robber Barons. Their unlikely love captured hearts and minds and audiences. Rose was a fiery speaker and fundraiser, an inspiration even to Eugene V. Debs. “I wish our side had you,” one anti-Socialist lecturer told Rose. “You’re the most dangerous one they’ve got.”
Gradually, Graham chafed at being the supportive husband back home. Then World War I happened. Add the Russian Revolution, and socialists and pacifists were no longer popular in a nation seized by patriotism. Rose’s work on the Socialist speaking circuit got her arrested, tried and convicted under the new Espionage Act. Under strain at home and surveillance outside, she lost her following, but never her hope that the Bolsheviks would bring about the new world order that inspired her life.
This book contrasts with other Hochshild works, including “To End All Wars” about World War I and “Spain in Our Hearts” about the Spanish Civil War. In those masterful histories, he tells the big story through the experiences of people involved. Here, he goes in the opposite direction, focusing on a single character and painting the context around her. This smaller frame doesn’t match the power of the others. But in Hochschild’s hands it remains a compelling read about a fascinating time in American history, one that bears some resemblance to today.
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line
By Deepa Anappara. (Random House, 368 pages, $27.)
A boy who doesn’t fully comprehend the events he’s sucked into is the narrator of Deepa Anappara’s dazzling debut novel, now longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
It was inspired by her frustration that, when she was a journalist in India, she couldn’t figure out how to tell the stories of the 180 Indian children who vanish every day. Jai, 9, lives in a settlement similar to the wasteland depicted in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Because, like all the adults in “Djinn Patrol,” his affectionate folks are distracted by the work they need to do to feed their family, crime-drama-obsessed Jai decides he is the detective to solve the mystery of what’s happening to classmates and neighbors who keep disappearing. It’s an enthralling narrative, grounded in Jai’s growing awareness that fairness does not guide his world and that happy endings are hard to come by.
“What is a whole life?” Jai asks. “If you die when you’re still a child, is your life whole or half or zero?”