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The Book Reader: 'On My Way,' 'Wonder Of Wonders'

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Aisha Harris of Slate reports on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."

A couple of books explore the long historical backgrounds of two classic pieces of American musical theater and the creative forces behind them.

In "On My Way: The Untold Story of Rouben Mamoulian, George Gershwin, and 'Porgy and Bess,'" former New York Times film critic Joseph Horowitz seeks to uncover director Mamoulian's previously unheralded contributions to the famed American opera.

Horowitz's book is thoroughly researched and informative, including script notes and personal accounts. The author also examines the changing landscape of musical theater and opera in the U.S. in the early 20th Century, as well as the uneasy politics surrounding a show created primarily by white artists with an African-American cast. Fans of "Porgy and Bess" will garner a full, lush picture of a complex work of art.

Alisa Solomon uncovers the sprawling history of one of the most well-known musicals of the last half of the 20th century in her upcoming book, "Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of 'Fiddler on the Roof.'"

The author goes beyond the iconic Broadway and movie versions American audiences are familiar with today and traces the rich roots of their subject matter, Tevye the Milkman. "Wonder of Wonders" discusses the character's inception from the mind of the beloved writer Sholem Alecheim and the initial struggles to bring him to the stage. Additionally, Solomon explores the multitude of ways in which the famed dairyman has been interpreted and presented as a Jewish-American icon long after Alecheim's death. For those looking for more than just a behind-the-scenes look at "Fiddler on the Roof," this book is sure to satisfy.

For more book reviews, check out the Slate Book Review at ClientIP:, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP