This vivid, honest memoir of growing up in the Roosevelt White House during the Great Depression is a delicious read for anyone interested in American history or the presidency.Curtis Roosevelt was born five and half months after Black Tuesday, when the New York Stock Exchange crash in October, 1929, paved the way, not only for the Great Depression, but also, for his grandfather's presidency. History had his family in its grip, and he had no choice but to go along for the ride.Just three years old, Curtis arrived at his grandparents' household at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue only a very short time after they themselves had begun to unpack. He and his sister, Eleanor, were the country's 'First Grandchildren', a pint-sized double act, known to the media as "Sistie and Buzzie" (pronounced as one word). "Too Close to the Sun" is his intimate account of growing up in the Roosevelt White House. With nostalgia and candour, Roosevelt describes his role as a tiny planet circling the dual suns of his grandfather and grandmother, known to him as Papa and Grandmere.
Blending self-abasement, humour, resentment and affection, Roosevelt describes the emotional impact of living his formative years with two larger-than-life figures, of having little identity beyond being one-half of the "Sistie and Buzzie" show, and of being kept on a short leash by everyone from his grandmother to his bodyguard."Too Close to the Sun" offers a rich chronicle of daily life in the Depression era White House and a moving tale of coming to terms with an untraditional childhood. It is also a fascinating portrait of arguably the most influential and inspirational figure in modern American history. Curtis Roosevelt was there. And he will take readers along with him, into the long-ago world that formed him-for better or for worse.
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(236mm x 188mm x 30mm)
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
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US Kirkus Review »
FDR's eldest grandson nostalgically recounts his childhood growing up in close proximity to his charismatic grandparents.The author's mother Anna, FDR's only daughter, was in the midst of a divorce in 1933 when she moved with three-year-old Curtis and his elder sister into the White House. The siblings instantly became darlings of the press as "Sistie and Buzzie." Roosevelt captures the delight of living at the White House from the perspective of a child given access to presidential marches, receptions and afternoon teas. But it was also a lonely time: He had a hands-off upbringing ruled by strict routine and spent more time with his nannies than with his mother. He contrasts her approach with that of his great-grandmother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, whose "love was unreserved" during summer vacations at her 1,500-acre Hudson Valley estate. Like the rest of his family, the author was in awe of FDR, whose presence generated "a kind of electricity in the air" and who "was, and remains, my father image." The drama intensified when eight-year-old Curtis was forced to leave the White House to follow his mother and stepfather to multiple residences in New York and Seattle. He pined for the importance and prestige he felt in the rarefied White House atmosphere, finding respite only when visiting for Christmas celebrations. The author cryptically links his growing apathy and lack of ambition as a teenager to his overbearingly famous family lineage, hypothesizing that he was "suffering from growing up in the orbits of my grandfather and grandmother." The memoir reveals, however, that Anna, a peremptory and distant mother focused on her famous parents and her love life, was more directly responsible. She sought career opportunities for herself through FDR, eventually undercutting her own mother's role as his confidant, but denied her son such opportunities as the family's traditional private schooling. In fact, the author never got as close to FDR's sun as his mother did, though he longed for it.Bittersweet window into a privileged yet insecure upbringing. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Curtis Roosevelt
Curtis Roosevelt, born in 1930, is the second eldest child of Anna Eleanor Roosevelt and the oldest grandson of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt. He received an M.A. from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, and later worked in advertising and public relations. In 1964, he joined the Secretariat of the United Nations, where for eighteen years he held various positions in the international civil service sector. He lives in France with his wife.