D'Orso, Michael 1953- (Mike D'Orso)
D'Orso, Michael 1953- (Mike D'Orso)
Born October 12, 1953, in Portsmouth, VA; son of James and Claire D'Orso; divorced; children: Jamie (daughter). Education: College of William and Mary, B.A., 1975, M.A., 1981. Hobbies and other interests: Basketball, pocket billiards, movies, music.
Home—Norfolk, VA. Agent—Black Literary Agency, 156 5th Ave., Ste. 608, New York, NY 10010.
Writer and journalist. Commonwealth Magazine, Richmond, VA, staff writer, 1981-84; Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk, VA, features writer, 1984-93.
National Headliner Award citation; Penney-Missouri Prize; National Association of Black Journalists Award citation; three awards, Best Sports Stories, The Sporting News; International Reading Association Award; American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors award; two awards, American Academy of Family Physicians National Journalism Award; National Unity Awards in Media; fifteen awards, Virginia Press Association; Virginia College Stores Association Book of the Year, 1988, for Somerset Homecoming; Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights citation, 1992, and Library Journal's Best Book of the Year list, both 1992, both for The Cost of Courage; Gold Medallion Book Award finalist, 1993, for Rise and Walk; Lillian Smith Book Award, American Library Association Notable Book of the Year, and New York Public Library "Books to Remember" list, all 1996, all for Like Judgment Day; Christopher Award, Lillian Smith Book Award, Booklist "Top of the List" award, and New York Times Notable Book of the Year, all 1998, and Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, 1999, all for Walking with the Wind.
(With Dorothy Spruill Redford) Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988, University of North Carolina Press (Chapel Hill, NC), 2000.
(As Mike D'Orso) Fast Takes: Slices of Life Through a Journalist's Eye, Hampton Roads (Norfolk, VA), 1990.
(With Carl Elliott) The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 2001.
(With Madeline Cartwright) For the Children: Lessons from a Visionary Principal—How We Can Save Our Public Schools, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.
(With Dennis Byrd) Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
(As Mike D'Orso) Pumping Granite, and Other Portraits of People at Play, Texas Tech University Press (Lubbock, TX), 1994.
Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood, Grosset/Putnam (New York, NY), 1996.
(With Dee Hakala) Thin Is Just a Four-Letter Word, Little, Brown (Boston, MA) 1997.
(With John Lewis) Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Leigh Steinberg) Winning with Integrity: Getting What You're Worth without Selling Your Soul, Villard (New York, NY), 1998.
(With Bill Phillips) Body-for-Life: 12 Weeks to Mental and Physical Strength, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Joseph I. Lieberman) In Praise of Public Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
(With Tom Daschle) Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years that Changed America Forever, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.
Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska, Bloomsbury (New York, NY), 2006.
Contributor of articles to periodicals, including Sports Illustrated, Fortune, Oxford American, Studies in American Fiction, Oklahoma Today, Reader's Digest, Self, and People.
Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd was adapted as a television movie by the Fox Television Network; Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood was a source for a motion picture titled Rosewood by Warner Brothers, directed by John Singleton.
Journalist Michael D'Orso has coauthored several autobiographical works, as well as his Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood, a 1996 account of the destruction of an African-American community in Florida in 1923. Among his collaborations are the 1993 volumes, Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, which chronicles the recovery of an injured professional football player, and For the Children: Lessons from a Visionary Principal—How We Can Save Our Public Schools, comprising the case study of a dedicated educator who transforms a troubled school into a community haven.
Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage was written by D'Orso with Dorothy Spruill Redford, a single mother and social worker in Portsmouth, Virginia, who, inspired by the 1977 telecast of Alex Haley's Roots, set out on a journey to discover her own ancestral heritage. That journey, which would last nine years, led her to the remains of a decrepit plantation in North Carolina, where she found the records of the first slaves brought to that estate in the eighteenth century to plant rice: her ancestors. Redford's subsequent efforts to locate living descendants of those slaves and their owners and to bring them together for a reunion resulted in the 1986 event for which the book is named. Alex Haley, who wrote the book's foreword, called it "the best, most beautifully researched and most thoroughly presented black family history that I know of." Carl Senna, writing in the New York Times Book Review, called it "moving … as much about a remarkable woman as about an American people."
In The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman, coauthored with John F. Kennedy Profiles in Courage Award recipient Carl Elliott, Sr., D'Orso recounts Elliott's career from tenant farmer to rural lawyer to the U.S. Congress, where he participated in passing the National Defense of Education Act and served on the House rules committee during the Kennedy administration. Ultimately unseated by advocates of racial segregation in the charged political atmosphere of the civil rights movement in Alabama during the 1960s, Elliott retired from public life after an unsuccessful bid for the governor's office. In a review of The Cost of Courage, in Publishers Weekly, a contributor praised the work, referring to the narrative as "rich in portrayals of political figures, including the ‘fearsome magnetism’ of a ruthless [then-Governor George] Wallace." Los Angeles Times reviewer Alex Raksin called the book "refreshing … thanks to the richly evocative text shaped by cowriter Michael D'Orso."
For the Children, written by D'Orso and Madeline Cartwright, details Cartwright's experiences as an elementary school principal in Philadelphia's Strawberry Mansion district, an inner city neighborhood plagued by poverty and violence. Taking an active role in maintaining high standards of instruction, physical cleanliness, and parental involvement, Cartwright restored the school to a central position within the community. Reviewing For the Children in Library Journal, Arla Lindgren called it "a powerful book" which "should be required reading for politicians, sociologists, educators, and anyone interested in the future of this country."
Rise and Walk, which John Maxymuk of Library Journal characterized as "very moving and inspirational," was also published in 1993. This nonfiction work treats the recovery of New York Jets defensive lineman Dennis Byrd, who was paralyzed after colliding with another player during a football game in November, 1992. Informed that he would never walk again, Byrd relied on a combination of medical treatment, physical therapy, Christian faith, and a supportive family to overcome his injuries. According to Andrea Cooper in New York Times Book Review, Byrd's story is "undeniably gripping." The Fox Television Network made Rise and Walk into a movie of the same title, which premiered on the Fox network in January, 1994.
Like Judgment Day documents the destruction of the town of Rosewood, Florida, in January, 1923. Incited by a white woman's accusation of rape, members of a white community murdered a number of black inhabitants of nearby Rosewood and drove others away from the area through repeated acts of arson and intimidation. With survivors scattered, the incident lay buried for six decades until the descendant of one of the victims began a personal investigation into the episode, a quest that would culminate in a successful damage suit against the State of Florida. Tracing both the perpetrators and the victims of the incident, D'Orso "vividly captures each figure and event, resisting the impulse to gloss over inconvenient material," according to reviewer Nell Irvin Painter in Washington Post Book World. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the account "a significant contribution to American history." A reviewer writing in the New Yorker credited D'Orso for writing this book "with the insight of a serious novelist." The 1997 motion picture, Rosewood, directed by John Singleton, relied on D'Orso's book as a reference, and Singleton wrote an introduction to the paperback edition of the book, which was published as a tie-in to the Warner Brothers film.
D'Orso wrote Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement with John Lewis, an Atlanta congressman since 1986 when he defeated Julian Bond, a leader in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the autobiography "well-paced history fired by moral purpose and backed by the authority of hard time in the trenches." Mary Carroll, writing in Booklist, called it "a thoughtful, illuminating ‘insider’ history of the movement and its aftermath." New Leader contributor Joseph Dolman expressed similar enthusiasm. "This book, beautifully written with Michael D'Orso, really tells two stories simultaneously," he wrote. "The first focuses on Lewis, a man of extraordinary character." Dolman continued: "The second story is a chronicle of the civil rights movement through Lewis's eyes, and the theme here is more melancholy than triumphant. For inherent in the movement was a wicked paradox: The stronger it grew, the more fragile it became, and, for leaders like Lewis and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the more distant were its goals."
Lewis, the son of Alabama sharecroppers, was educated in a one-room schoolhouse and was the victim of segregation in the Deep South. He later became chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and spoke at the 1963 March on Washington. Lewis was arrested more than forty times and beaten in South Carolina and Alabama. He was knocked unconscious during the Montgomery Freedom Rides and suffered a fractured skull in Selma on Bloody Sunday at the hands of Alabama state troopers. Ten days after this infamous day, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent voting rights legislation to Congress, and it passed as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Lewis eventually lost his leadership positions to the more militant members of the movement, such as Stokely Carmichael. Lewis worked with Robert F. Kennedy and was in the Senator's room in the Ambassador Hotel when Kennedy was shot in the kitchen. In Walking with the Wind, Lewis stresses the importance of the churches and the clergy in the civil rights movement. A USA Today contributor called his memoir "evocative and vividly personal."
A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Lewis "notes that people often take his quietness for meekness. His book … makes clear that such an impression is entirely inaccurate." Jack E. White commented in Time that, of the survivors of the civil rights movement, John Lewis "remains most committed to its original creed." "The strength of Lewis's powerful new book … is not only the witness he bears but also the simplicity of his voice," wrote Jon Meacham in Newsweek. Library Journal reviewer Thomas H. Ferrell considered Lewis's account of the lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1960 to be "the most valuable" of his reminiscences. "Lewis knows how far we've come—and senses how far we have to go," wrote Meacham in the Washington Monthly. "To his credit, Lewis has stayed the integrationist course as well, remaining faithful to the spirit of the March on Washington in a world more interested in Malcolm than in Martin. He understands, too, that the ground on which liberalism must fight now includes class as well as race: ‘There hasn't been a time in America—certainly not since World War II—that the classes have been pushed as far apart as they are today.’ He's right, and solutions will only result from the kind of interracial effort that characterized the movement of the 1950s and early 1960s, not the separatism that became so fashionable in the late '60s."
Leigh Steinberg and D'Orso collaborated on Winning with Integrity: Getting What You're Worth without Selling Your Soul. Steinberg is a top sports agent whose clients have included Steve Young, Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe, Kordell Stewart, and Warren Moon. His contracts total more than two billion dollars, and he has maintained a high standard of ethics over his many years as an agent. His manner of doing business was a model for the film Jerry Maguire. Steinberg lists twelve points to follow in any negotiation, and includes his own experiences. A Publishers Weekly contributor commented that Steinberg's philosophy, "‘that it is always more advantageous to act ethically, to take the high road,’ is what makes his book a useful guide."
D'Orso coauthored Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman's In Praise of Public Life. Lieberman, then chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, advised a reform of the political process and advocated more involvement by voters, especially younger voters. Washington Monthly contributor Phil Keisling declared that "by most accounts, Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) is a decent, devout, likable, and occasionally courageous politician. He's bucked his own party leaders on issues like the Persian Gulf War and cutting capital gains taxes. He's publicly upbraided Hollywood for its excessive taste for sex and violence; his pointed (and timely) September 1998 speech excoriating President Clinton for his ‘disgraceful and immoral’ conduct in the Lewinsky matter also received widespread kudos." Though Keisling recognized the senator's "sincerity, idealism, and native optimism," he went on to point out that "the problem is that when Lieberman finally gets around to discussing what his life as a U.S. senator is really like—in the book's second, less interesting half—the picture is resoundingly ambivalent. Yes, he's helped pass some worthy legislation, and he derives genuine satisfaction from some of his case work. But then there's having to deal with special interest groups, excessive partisanship, raising campaign cash, the long hours, commuting back and forth between Connecticut and Washington, and the struggles of juggling family, religious, and community obligations."
Keisling commented that Lieberman's book "underscores, yet again, the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform … a system of public financing that gives credible candidates the option of focusing exclusively on ideas … and not on cross-country fund-raising jaunts and multi-million dollar media buys that resort to empty rhetoric, distortions of opponents' records, and funny cartoon characters." Library Journal contributor Michael A. Genovese wrote that in the book's final sections, Lieberman "returns to the theme of the value of public service, offering some important reform proposals." In Publishers Weekly, a reviewer noted: "It is refreshing to hear the point of view of someone who still finds politics a noble calling."
Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands is a solo effort by D'Orso that examines the famous Galapagos Islands, its unique ecosystem, the impoverished islanders who live there, and those who threaten its natural environment, including scientists, poachers, and even the ecotourists who profess to be on nature's side. Donna Seaman, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "brings into focus the entire spectrum of Galapagos life, a very different world from that shown in romanticized documentaries." A contributor to Science News noted that the author reveals the islands' story "through the eyes of some of its most lively characters." In a review in Audubon, Christy Melhart called Plundering Paradise a "haunting narrative," adding: "His tale is by turns poignant and unsettling."
D'Orso collaborated with Tom Daschle for Daschle's account of the U.S. Congress in Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever. The book covers such events at the September 11 terrorist attacks and the resolution to support an invasion of Iraq, as well as Daschle's own take on specific colleagues in Congress. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the book "recalls an unusually eventful time."
For his 2006 book, Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska, D'Orso follows the Fort Yukon High School basketball teams during the 2004-05 season. That year, the school had thirty-two students enrolled, with fourteen boys and seven girls playing on their respective basketball teams. Surprisingly, the boy's team is one of the most successful in the state of Alaska. In his book, D'Orso follows the team through practice and games and also looks at the town and community of Fort Yukon. "The basketball narrative is fascinating … but the real beauty of the book emerges in the contextual portrait of life in a small bush town," wrote Wes Lukowsky in Booklist. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the book "sympathetic and revelatory."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
D'Orso, Michael, and Dorothy Spruill Redford, Somerset Homecoming: Recovering a Lost Heritage, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1988.
Atlantic, November, 1988, Phoebe-Lou Adams, review of Somerset Homecoming, p. 99.
Audubon, June, 2003, Christy Melhart, review of Plundering Paradise: The Hand of Man on the Galapagos Islands, p. 92.
Booklist, February 15, 1996, review of Like Judgment Day: The Ruin and Redemption of a Town Called Rosewood, pp. 984, 997; April 1, 1997, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 1285; April 15, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement, p. 1355; September 1, 1998, Wes Lukowsky, review of Winning with Integrity: Getting What You're Worth without Selling Your Soul, p. 54; January 1, 1999, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 775; November 15, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Plundering Paradise, p. 551; March 1, 2006, Wes Lukowsky, review of Eagle Blue: A Team, a Tribe, and a High School Basketball Season in Arctic Alaska, p. 55.
California Bookwatch, June, 2006, review of Eagle Blue.
Journal of American History, September, 1999, Kathryn L. Nasstrom, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 849.
Journal of International Wildlife Law & Policy, January-August, 2004, Jane Heslinga, review of Plundering Paradise, p. 119.
Journal of Southern History, February, 2000, John Salmond, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 167.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1998, review of Walking with the Wind; September 15, 2002, review of Plundering Paradise, p. 1361; February 1, 2006, review of Eagle Blue, p. 119.
Kliatt, May, 1997, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 28.
Library Journal, June 15, 1993, Arla Lindgren, review of For the Children: Lessons from a Visionary Principal—How We Can Save Our Public Schools, pp. 79, 82; October 1, 1993, John Maxymuk, review of Rise and Walk: The Trial and Triumph of Dennis Byrd, p. 100; March 15, 1996, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 89; May 15, 1998, Thomas H. Ferrell, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 100; March 1, 2000, Michael A. Genovese, review of In Praise of Public Life, p. 110.
Los Angeles Times, January 26, 1992, Alex Raksin, review of The Cost of Courage: The Journey of an American Congressman.
MS Best Books, January 17, 2003, review of Like No Other Time: The 107th Congress and the Two Years That Changed America Forever.
New Leader, June 29, 1998, Joseph Dolman, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 20.
Newsweek, June 1, 1998, Jon Meacham, "A Storm in the Streets," p. 69.
New Yorker, June 17, 1996, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 100.
New York Review of Books, June 25, 1998, Garry Wills, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 27.
New York Times, December 28, 1996, Dinitia Smith, "Town's 1923 Horror Haunts a Book and Two Films," p. 12; June 28, 1998, William H. Chafe, review of Walking with the Wind.
New York Times Book Review, November 13, 1988, Carl Senna, review of Somerset Homecoming, p. 35; October 3, 1993, Andrea Cooper, review of Rise and Walk, p. 25; November 14, 1993, John Allen Paulos, review of For the Children, p. 15; September 24, 2000, Douglas A. Sylva, review of In Praise of Public Life, p. 23.
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 1992, review of The Cost of Courage, p. 60; January 1, 1996, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 65; April 13, 1998, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 57; August 3, 1998, review of Winning with Integrity, p. 69; January 31, 2000, review of In Praise of Public Life, p. 96; October 14, 2002, review of Plundering Paradise, p. 72; September 29, 2003, review of Like NoOther Time, p. 52; January 2, 2006, review of Eagle Blue, p. 50.
Reference & Research Book News, March, 1995, review of Pumping Granite and Other Portraits of People at Play, p. 18.
Science News, March 15, 2003, review of Plundering Paradise, p. 175.
Sojourners, November, 1999, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 56.
Time, June 22, 1998, Jack E. White, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 76.
USA Today, December 2, 1999, review of Walking with the Wind.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1997, review of Like Judgment Day, p. 305.
Washington Monthly, May, 1998, Jon Meacham, review of Walking with the Wind, p. 38; March, 2000, Phil Keisling, review of In Praise of Public Life, p. 44.
Washington Post, October 31, 1993, Sara Mosle, review of For the Children, p. ER15.
Washington Post Book World, February 4, 1996, Nell Irvin Painter, review of Like Judgment Day, pp. 3, 6.
Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (December 29, 2006), information on film adaptation of Rise and Walk.