Reviews and Articles

“Mr. Tye… has a keen gift for narrative storytelling and an ability to depict his subject with almost novelistic emotional detail… Tye conscientiously strips away the accretions of myth that have come to surround Robert F. Kennedy, while at the same time creating a sympathetic portrait of this complex, searching man.”

Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

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“Tye traces the jagged line of Bobby Kennedy’s transformation from ideologue to idealist while attorney general. But that path was anything but straight… Like Alexander Hamilton during our nation’s founding, Kennedy was the most dominant figure of his time not to be elected president. He shaped events during the most turbulent years since the Civil War..

Any study of Bobby Kennedy will be less about what he was than what he might have become. Tye has crafted a multi-layered, inspiring portrait of RFK. Because the author refuses to avert his eyes from the uglier chapters in Kennedy’s life, he provides readers and historians their most in-depth look at an extraordinary figure whose transformational story shaped America at mid-century.”

– Joe Scarborough, Washington Post

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“Larry Tye has done his homework. He has read the books and articles, interviewed hundreds of family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and made use of newly released materials in the Kennedy Library and elsewhere to produce a nuanced, balanced, affectionate and mostly favorable portrait… [Tye] presents us with a kind of bildungsroman of a young, privileged man who is forced to learn on the job and makes mistakes… We are in Larry Tye’s debt for bringing back to life the young presidential candidate who… for a brief moment, almost half a century ago, instilled hope for the future in angry, fearful Americans.”

David Nasaw, New York Times

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“Tye’s vivid journalistic style makes the biography an arresting read… no one yet, including biographers he highly esteems… has ‘examined the nuances of [Bobby Kennedy’s] pilgrimage. … It was [not] a straight line from conservative to liberal.’ These… ‘dueling aspects of Bobby’s political soul’ [are] what drove the award-winning Boston Globe reporter to interview more than 400 sources (including Ethel Kennedy) and review 58 boxes of Kennedy’s personal papers that had been locked away for four decades… Though Tye clearly admires the compassionate, tenacious leader that Bobby became, he does not allow that persona to obfuscate or excuse his earlier political acts of joining McCarthy’s witch hunts or bolstering corrupt dictators.

‘Most people harden as they add years and accumulate power, but Bobby’s sanctimony and starchiness increasingly yielded to his introspection and idealism… He finally became one of James Baldwin’s righteous warriors,’ Tye writes.”

– Elaine Elinson, San Francisco Chronicle

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“Mr Tye’s account is nuanced and thorough… highlighting how much Kennedy would change over his short life. His cold-warrior posturing… would soften as he saw more of the world and its hardships. Gradually, this privileged son who lived in an enormous mansion learned to empathise with those on the fringes of society… Indeed, it is Kennedy’s work on civil rights and poverty that reverberates most powerfully through history. As attorney-general during his brother’s presidency, he ordered troops to prepare for a stand-off in Alabama with the arch-segregationist governor over admitting African-Americans to the state university. As a senator, he travelled to Mississippi to search out the poverty that the state’s leaders ignored. He also became an early ally to Cesar Chavez and the farmworkers Chavez fought for…

Robert Kennedy[‘s]… vision echoes through the decades. ‘Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly,’ he said in 1966. If only modern-day leaders were so bold.”

The Economist

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Larry Tye’s fascinating new book, “Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon…” [ traces ] Kennedy’s transition from a brash, patrician lawyer to a skilled liberal politician who overwhelmingly identified with those in the greatest need… As senator, he toured the Mississippi Delta and visited a rundown shack where more than a dozen people lived and the only thing in the refrigerator was a jar of peanut butter… walking away through the uncut grass when Kennedy leaned over and whispered: “I’ve been to Third World countries, but I’ve never seen anything like this…” By the time of his presidential run, Kennedy had grown into a political rock star – passionate about the needy, eager to end the Vietnam War and gaining momentum as he won state primaries ranging from Indiana to California… With his assassination right after winning California, the loss of such a passionate liberal, skilled infighter and talented politician raised the haunting question that had surfaced when his brother was shot five years earlier.

What might have been?

Will Lester, Associated Press

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A captivating account of the political career of Robert F. Kennedy, from his years as a zealous communist hunter for Joe McCarthy through the 1968 presidential campaign during which he was assassinated ate age 42.  For this state-of-the-art political biography, Tye conducted 400 interviews with people who worked with Kennedy. He also had access to national archives. The author’s admiration for his subject shows, but this is no hagiography…Shedding new light on Kennedy’s relationships with Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., Tye ultimately reveals Kennedy as a work in progress who, by the end of his life, had become a beloved advocate for minorities and the poor… [An] absorbing narrative

– Library Journal (starred review)

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“It is difficult to envision anyone getting Robert F. Kennedy more right than biographer Tye does in this superb book. Tye beautifully captures Kennedy’s contradictions, his emergence from under the hard-to-like father to whom he remained forever loyal, and his growth into a public figure killed by an assassin’s bullet. It’s also hard to imagine another biographer framing the subject any differently: Tye depicts Kennedy’s transformation from a callow, ruthless, hypocritical, “godawful disagreeable” man to his era’s “most nostalgia-wrapped figure” of “transcendent good,” someone who shifted as his nation changed. Tye equitably concedes that Kennedy’s detractors have much reason to be tough on the man, and his clear depiction of Kennedy’s many blemishes is just one of the book’s many fine qualities. Another is its wonderful readability. In the end, Tye’s subject stands forth as an admirable man. Yes, he often failed to level with people, hid his feelings, and pursued vendettas (notably against Lyndon Johnson). But as Tye shows, R.F.K. at the end of his life warranted the faith people put in him and came close to being the person his admirers thought him to be.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred review)

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“The trouble with calling someone iconic is that the truth is often obscured under layers of mythology. Nowhere, perhaps, is that more pertinent than in the legends surrounding Robert F. Kennedy. Those of a certain age remember him as a Don Quixote–like figure tilting at the windmills of poverty, racism, and a prolonged war in Vietnam. Some may be aware that he was the right-hand man for Senator Joseph McCarthy, an arch conservative dedicated to rooting out Communist subversives. How and why did Kennedy morph from one to the other? Was the seasoned politician who ran for president in 1968 that far removed from the eager staff aide associated with such a controversial crusader? Through extensive conversations with Bobby’s widow, Ethel, and far-reaching interviews with key aides, colleagues, close friends, and ideological adversaries, Tye (Superman, 2012) unflinchingly illustrates the evolution of a statesman who captured the imagination of a generation and whose assassination galvanized a nation reeling from the losses of Martin Luther King, Jr. and, of course, Kennedy’s beloved older brother. Even-handed and probing, Tye’s perceptive analysis of RFK’s career and its impact avoids the hagiographic tone frequently associated with Kennedy biographies to provide a complete portrait of a complex man whose contributions to history were essential and whose potential will remain forever unknowable.”

– Booklist (starred review)

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[Boston.com’s reviewer] Saraswat recommends this Robert Kennedy biography because the author had unprecedented access to unpublished memoirs, government papers, and other documents that hadn’t been seen in 40 years. “[Tye] did interviews with Bobby’s widow, Ethel, sister, and other people who have never given interviews to biographers,” she said. “So this is kind of the definitive book on Bobby Kennedy. It’s already gotten endorsements from Jon Meacham, who won the Pulitzer for his Thomas Jefferson book, and by Henry Kissinger. So I think it’s going to be pretty big.”

– Boston.com

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“A former journalist at the Boston Globe returns with a comprehensive, thesis-driven account of the political career of Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968). Tye (Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Hero, 2013, etc.) develops the argument that RFK was an evolving human being and politician, a tireless attorney general and senator on whom nothing was lost. The author begins with his association with one McCarthy (Joseph) and ends, more or less, with another (Eugene, whom RFK battled in the 1968 presidential primaries). Relying on countless interviews, including the contributions of RFK’s widow, Tye weaves a compelling story of Bobby’s changes: his growth from the “ruthless” image his political enemies attached to him to the committed humanitarian, the friend of African-Americans, the enemy of poverty, and the outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War. We see his devoted support of John F. Kennedy’s various campaigns, his vigorous performance as attorney general, his devastation after JFK’s assassination, his rancorous relationship with Lyndon Johnson. But mostly it’s his changes that interest the author. Not the student or scholar that JFK had been, RFK began to read—after the JFK assassination, he read Aeschylus and listened while he shaved to recordings of Shakespeare plays—and to inform himself deeply about the issues. Not a witty, graceful politician like his older brother, RFK worked hard to develop an effective style. Although Tye is a patent admirer, he wonders about RFK’s relationship with Marilyn Monroe, and he is also unsure about a possible affair with widow Jackie Kennedy. The author chides RFK for such things as slanting his account of the Bay of Pigs, his perhaps excessive pursuit of Jimmy Hoffa, and his early hawkishness on Vietnam. But the contrary image is clear: a good, if not great man; an unspeakable loss. Richly researched prose that sometimes soars too close to the sun of admiration.”

–Kirkus Reviews

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“This is not just another Bobby Kennedy book. It is the definitive biography of one of America’s most compelling political figures. Larry Tye has given us the complete Bobby, from the Bad (Early) Kennedy to the Good (Later) Kennedy, from committee counsel to the red-baiting Joe McCarthy to the “ruthless” political manager to the gentle, soft-hearted presidential candidate. Tye’s book rests on prodigious and original research including rare, on-the-record interviews with Bobby’s widow, Ethel, who confesses that seeing Bobby for the first time was like meeting George Clooney.”

– Roger Mudd, former co-anchor of NBC Nightly News

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This biography will appeal not only to those wanting a portrait of a dynamic idealist, but also to those seeking to understand the emotions of the times in which he lived.” 

– Dr. Henry Kissinger

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“Larry Tye, with the eye of a good reporter, and the diligence of an accomplished scholar, writes a fascinating, timely report on the other Kennedy–the one named Bobby, who started supporting Joe McCarthy politics and died fighting in the anti-Vietnam war crusade.  Bobby has always deserved a crackerjack bio.  Tye has delivered it.” 

– Marvin Kalb, senior adviser at the Pulitzer Center and author of Imperial Gamble: Putin, Ukraine and the New Cold War

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“With skill  and verve, Larry Tye has written a fascinating account of a transformative figure who continues to summon us to heed our better angels even all these years distant.”

– Jon Meacham, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author of Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power

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“Dreamy and calculating, joyful and sad, hard and soft, good and bad, Bobby Kennedy remains one of history’s fascinating and elusive figures. In this fair, lively, and insightful biography, Larry Tye makes him real.”

– Evan Thomas, bestselling author of Robert Kennedy: His Life and Being Nixon: A Man Divided 

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Selected Articles and Broadcasts

American ProspectReintroducing Bobby Kennedy and His Legacy

Anniston Star, Robert Kennedy and the Heart of Dixie

Anniston Star, Insight: A Kennedy’s life — New book traces the growth of one of America’s transcendent figures

Austin American-Statesman, Will America listen now like it did in 1968?

Baltimore Sun, What today’s presidential nominees can learn from Bobby Kennedy

The Boston Globe, The Trip that Forged Jack and Bobby Kennedy’s Political Partnership

Brooklyn Eagle, New Light on Bobby Kennedy

Crux, Author says RFK’s legacy never more relevant than in 2016

Fort Wayne (Indiana) Journal Gazette, ‘I… have a chance now’

Haaretz, How Bobby Kennedy cemented his relationship with U.S. Jews

Havana Times, Bobby Kennedy’s Role in the Cuban Missile Crisis

Huffington Post, Making America Safe Again — The Bobby Kennedy Way

India Abroad, When the Kennedy Brothers Went to India

The Irish Echo, RFK’s Healing Magic Would be Balm Right Now

Irish Examiner, Transformation of RFK

Jackson Clarion-Ledger, Robert Kennedy’s Transformation

Joe Madison Show, Larry Tye – Bobby Kennedy: The Making of a Liberal Icon

The Moscow Times, Bobby Kennedy: A Trip to Russia That Shaped His Mind

National Catholic Reporter, Faith was Integral to Bobby Kennedy’s Life and Politics

Nieman Reports, How Bobby Kennedy in 1968 Turned Skeptical Journalists into Believers

Norfolk (NE) Daily News,  New book recalls Robert Kennedy’s time campaigning in Nebraska

Oregonlive.com, Historic Loss in Oregon Presidential Primary

Orlando Sentinel, For Robert F. Kennedy Gun Proposal is 48 Years Too Late

Philadelphia Inquirer, Just as RFK evolved, so must Clinton

Politico, The Most Trusted White Man in Black America

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