Freedman, Samuel G. 1955-
Freedman, Samuel G. 1955-
Born 1955; son of a machinist; married Cynthia Sheps; children: Aaron, Sarah. Education: University of Wisconsin at Madison, B.A. Religion: Jewish.
Journalist, author, and educator. New York Times, New York, NY, journalist, 1981-87; Columbia University School of Journalism, New York, NY, professor, 1991, 1993—, interim associate dean for academic affairs, 2002-03. Previously worked as a reporter for the New Jersey Bridgewater Courier-News and Chicago Tribune's Suburban Trib. Also a board member of the Institute for American Values and the Jewish Book Council.
National Book Award finalist, 1990, for Small Victories; Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, 1993, for Upon This Rock; Pulitzer Prize finalist, and New Jersey Humanities Council Book Award, both 1997, both for The Inheritance; Distinguished Teaching in Journalism award, Society of Professional Journalists, 1997; National Jewish Book Award, 2000, for Jew vs. Jew.
Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School, Harper and Row (New York, NY), 1990.
Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1996.
Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2000.
Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2005.
Letters to a Young Journalist, Basic Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Samuel G. Freedman worked for several years as a journalist for the New York Times before he decided to expand his reportage into book-length pieces. His background as a reporter prepared him for the rigors of book authorship; as he told Wendy Smith for Publishers Weekly: "On most daily newspapers you're writing in present time. But at the Times, even if you were writing an 1100-word piece on [politics] … they wanted context; you had to commit some of that space to putting it in historical perspective." The author went to note that "it pushed me beyond reporting and helped prepare me for doing it at book level." Receiving acclaim for his insightful writings, in 1997 Freedman joined the faculty of Columbia University's prestigious School of Journalism.
Freedman first met high school teacher Jessica Siegel in 1987, after Siegel wrote him a candid letter responding to one of Freedman's newspaper articles. His first book, Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School is based upon a year spent witnessing the day-to-day trials and tribulations experienced by Siegel in her job teaching at Seward Public High School, located in a disadvantaged neighborhood of New York City. Small Victories, a finalist for the National Book Award in 1990, was praised by several reviewers. According to a writer for Time: "Considering the obstacles confronting Seward's teachers and their students, Freedman's book may be misnamed. The victories seem large indeed."
Employing a focus many reviewers have characterized as liberal, Freedman shows even more clearly how an institution can improve the lives of the poor in his second book. Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church is written in the same style as Small Victories, and again champions an underdog fighting against daunting odds. For this book Freedmen spent a year with preacher Johnny Ray Youngblood at St. Paul's Community Baptist Church in East Brooklyn, New York. He won the Helen Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism in 1993 for his objective reporting on St. Paul's black community. David L. Kirp, in his review for the National Review, wrote: "In prose whose richness and texture matches its subject, Freedman shows how a community gets created in the kind of place conventionally doomed to failure," and called Upon This Rock "a remarkable book."
In 1996 Freedman changed his political focus, this time examining several politically conservative New York State Republican families whose roots lay in Catholicism and the Democratic Party. The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond shows how a group of immigrant Catholics switched political alliances in the late 1960s, and how the whole of America turned Republican. One minor criticism of the book came from James M. McPherson, who explained in the New York Times Book Review that Freedman's narrow focus prohibits a full examination of the topic promised by the book's subtitle. "For three-quarters of a century the South was solid for the Democrats. Now it is almost as solid for the Republicans. That is the real story of the making and unmaking of the Democratic majority," McPherson noted. In Insight on the News, Jeffrey Hart was more enthusiastic, praising the book for possessing "the rich texture of a great social novel" and complimenting the author for shining "a clear beam of light onto the social origins of our political alignments today."
Freedman's highly acclaimed Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry was a national best seller when it came out in 2000. The book also won the National Jewish Book Award in the same year. The factions of modern American Judaism—Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox—are studied, and the author concludes that despite the economic and social successes of Jews as a segment of U.S. society, their factionalism threatens to destroy them as a people. Praising the work as "beautifully written, replete with insightful and often heart-wrenching vignettes" in a review for Society, William B. Helmreich dubbed Jew vs. Jew "a clarion call to American Jewry to put its own house in order lest that house crumble into nothingness."
In his 2005 book, Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life, Freedman looks back on the life of his mother who died at the age of fifty from cancer when the author was only nineteen. He tells of his mother's life as a lovely young woman growing up in the East Bronx among Jewish Eastern European immigrants, her life working during World War II, and the loss of her real love because he was a Catholic. The author also reflects on his own regrets for his lack of attention to his mother while he was an undergraduate and she was dying. GraceAnne A. DeCandido, writing in Booklist, noted that the author "has written a vivid story, her story, with all the narrative energy of a novel." Referring to Who She Was as "thoughtful," a Publishers Weekly contributor went on to note in the same review: "The book's final section shares some deeply captivating moments."
Freedman's next book, Letters to a Young Journalist, presents an extended conversation with young, budding journalists, from kids on high school newspapers to graduates starting their first jobs. In the process, the author covers a wide range of topics, such as beat coverage, conducting research, radio documentaries, and Internet blogs. The author also gives a historical overview of the major successes and failures in American journalism as well as the highs and lows of his own career. School Library Journal contributor Ted Westervelt wrote that the author "offers valuable advice based on his experiences and the collective wisdom of … colleagues." Writing in Booklist, Vanessa Bush noted that "Freedman speaks very directly and personally, offering encouragement with equal portions of rea."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2005, GraceAnne A. DeCandido, review of Who She Was: My Search for My Mother's Life, p. 1338; March 1, 2006, Vanessa Bush, review of Letters to a Young Journalist, p. 47.
Insight on the News, October 28, 1996, Jeffrey Hart, review of The Inheritance: How Three Families and America Moved from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond, p. 33.
Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2005, review of Who She Was, p. 99.
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 13, 2000, Carlin Romano, review of Jew vs. Jew: The Struggle for the Soul of American Jewry, p. K7674.
Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Barbara Hoffert, review of Who She Was, p. 92.
Mother Jones, April 13, 2005, Julian Brookes, "Who She Was: An Interview with Samuel G. Freedman.
Nation, July 26, 1993, Stephanie Gutman, review of Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church, p. 150.
National Review, March 15, 1993, David L. Kirp, review of Upon This Rock, p. 69.
New York Times, October 11, 1996, Alan Ehrenhalt, "From the New Deal to a Disgust with Government," p. B19; August 17, 2000, Jonathan Rosen, review of Jew vs. Jew, p. B9.
New York Times Book Review, September 22, 1996, James M. McPherson, "Grandchild of the New Deal," p. 15; September 3, 2000, Stephen J. Whitfield, review of Jew vs. Jew, p. B16; April 24, 2005, Joyce Johnson, "Who She Was: Bronx Bombshell."
Publishers Weekly, February 21, 2000, review of Jew vs. Jew, p. 50; September 9, 1996, Wendy Smith, "Samuel G. Freedman: History in Three Dimensions," p. 60; March 7, 2005, review of Who She Was, p. 60; February 20, 2006, review of Letters to a Young Journalist, p. 152.
School Library Journal, September, 2006, Ted Westervelt, review of Letters to a Young Journalist, p. 250.
Society, May-June, 2002, William B. Helmreich, review of Jew vs. Jew, p. 95.
Time, June 4, 1990, review of Small Victories: The Real World of a Teacher, Her Students, and Their High School, p. 84.
Beliefnet,http://www.beliefnet.com/ (April 21, 2008), David Greenberg, review of Jew vs. Jew.
Columbia University Journalism School Web site,http://www.journalism.columbia.edu/ (April 4, 2008), faculty profile of author.
Samuel G. Freedman Home Page,http://www.samuelfreedman.com (July 9, 2002).