Authors pen bios of those they knew well
Enjoy these profiles by authors with first-hand knowledge of their subjects.
To the Front: Grandfathers’ Stories in the Cause of Freedom, by Michael M. Van Ness, MD, 288 pages, Modern Memories, Inc. paperback, 2022
Military families have fascinating stories to share. Michael Van Ness recalls his upbringing as the son of Captain Harper E. Van Ness, Jr., on assignment in D.C.
Natives of D.C. will find familiarity in his depiction of the city in the 1960s and the social life of military families trying to live in the expensive environs of the nation’s capital. Descriptions of events at the Army Navy Club and other local venues add color to the story.
Van Ness also spent time with his grandfather, retired Major General John B. Anderson, who lived on Albemarle Street in Westmoreland Hills. Young Michael heard many a stemwinder during his weekly sleepovers at his grandparents’ home.
Read about his grandfather’s career — his encounters with historic figures, including Eisenhower and Churchill, to the depths of loneliness when he was not awarded a third star.
To the Front also touches on past military campaigns. Six battle maps and 32 photos enhance the narrative of pivotal World War II engagements.
Dr. Michael Van Ness, who is 70, is a gastroenterologist in Canton, Ohio. He enlisted to defray the cost of medical school and served as medical officer on USS Sylvania and on the staff at Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Tasha: A Son’s Memoir, by Brian Morton, 224 pages, Avid Reader Press paperback, 2023
This is a poignant portrait by a son of his mother who encouraged his literary ambitions. Nevertheless, she managed to alienate him with her constant criticism and biting tongue.
Novelist Brian Morton, who teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and is in his 60s, wrote a biography of his late father in which he portrayed his mother as an eccentric woman. It hurt her greatly. After her death, he set out to rectify that impression.
In Tasha, he points out his mother’s many accomplishments and lauds her bold approach to life. Morton also depicts her as an octogenarian lonely widow who can no longer live independently. He lightens the mood with details of her hysterical encounters with social workers, healthcare providers and the police.
Tasha may give adult children who care for their aging parents perspective on their own situation. It may also give aging parents pause as to the demands they make on their grown offspring. All the while, you’ll be entertained by a wonderful storyteller.
Tasha was chosen among the best nonfiction books of 2022 by the Washington Post.
Clear It with Sid! Sidney R. Yates and Fifty Years of Presidents, Pragmatism, and Public Service, by Michael C. Dorf and George Van Dusen, 304 pages, University of Illinois Press paperback, 2022
You may have passed the Sidney R. Yates Federal Building on 14th Street and Independence Avenue in Northwest D.C. It’s named for the 27-term Congressman from Illinois’ 9th District.
The Democrat served in the House from 1949 to 1963 and from 1965 to 1999. When he stepped down, he was the oldest and longest-serving member of the House.
Clear It with Sid! is more than just a political biography; it’s an insiders’ look into the legislative process. Yates rose through the ranks of seniority to become a powerful figure in the halls of Congress.
In 1962, he ran for the U.S. Senate and was defeated by Republican Minority Leader incumbent Everett Dirksen. Yates subsequently returned to the House.
Political junkies of a certain age will enjoy reading about politics in the second half of the 20th century. The 30 black-and-white photographs will bring back memories of prominent politicians of that era.
Author Michael Dorf, Yates’ personal lawyer and Special Counsel, is in his late 60s. Co-author septuagenarian George Van Dusen was manager of the Congressman’s home district operations and is currently mayor of Skokie, Illinois.