BOOKS: BECOMING SOMEBODY

MARSHALL FRADY'S SYMPATHETIC BUT UNSPARING BIOGRAPHY EXAMINES WHAT MAKES JESSE RUN

At the start of his exploration into the convoluted soul of Jesse Jackson, biographer Marshall Frady makes two highly charged assertions about the hugeness of the task. Any serious evaluation of Jackson, he writes, must begin with the acknowledgement that "the fundamental American crisis is that of race"; and with a recognition that the gulf between blacks and whites remains so deep that there are "inherent limits to any white writer's understanding beyond which he properly should not venture."

In this astonishing biography, Jesse: The Life and Pilgrimage of Jesse Jackson (Random House; 552 pages; $28.50), Frady proves that the first...

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