Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Book Review: 'Guest of Honor' by Deborah Davis

✰✰✰ Is it possible for a simple family dinner to change history? That’s exactly what happened in 1901 when President Theodore Roosevelt, also known as TR, invited Booker T. Washington to dine with the First Family. TR had a habit of combining business and dining, and he was the first president to do so. When he found himself pressed for time, TR simply did what he always did; he invited Booker T. to dinner.

While the dinner itself was quite unremarkable, the president had set a precedent. It was the first time an African American had been invited to dine at the White House. The negative press that followed triggered a political firestorm that would impact both men for decades.

The Bottom Line: This quick read features a little known event in American history. Told in short chapters, readers of biographies will enjoy the comparison between the two men. One was born into privilege while the other was born into slavery; yet, their lives mirrored one another. Together they formed a political alliance that would benefit each.

Guest of Honor is a fascinating look back at a time when slavery had ended, but social slavery persisted. Recommended for history buffs and those interested in race relations. This book includes several pages of black and white photographs and illustrations.

Book Club Notes: As a group, we noted that this book is an engaging read; it would be a great addition to high school and college history classes. Also, it was a good choice for Black History Month. It was interesting to discuss the similarities and differences between TR and Booker T. Also, while times have changed since this event took place, we took a look at race relations then and now. Overall, the book received a high rating of 4.5 on a scale from 1 - 5; there was so much to talk about. Highly recommended for book clubs interested in history and episodic history. Book discussion leaders can find a reading guide with discussion questions at Simon & Schuster.

Details: Guest of Honor: Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and the White House Dinner That Shocked a Nation by Deborah Davis. Paperback published by ATRIA Books in 2012. 320 p. ISBN: 978-1-4391-6982-7

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