A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression

A secret Gift is one of the best best books I have ever read. Written by Ted Gup, currently the chair of the journalism department at Emerson College, and before that, an award winning investigative journalist who learned the ropes from none other than Bob Woodward.

So what is this Secret Gift? From the LA Times review,

On Dec. 18, 1933, an ad appeared in the Canton, Ohio, paper offering financial aid for 50 to 75 families to help them have “a merry and joyous Christmas.” The benefactor asked simply that the applicants write of their “true circumstances” and, when the letters arrived, felt compelled to help twice as many. Before Santa arrived, $5 checks from B. Virdot, as the paper noted, a pseudonym,reached 150 people. Virdot’s identity remained a secret for 75 years, until his grandson, Ted Gup, opened a suitcase to discover a bankbook and the cache of letters.

They could hardly have landed in better hands. Gup, a former Washington Post reporter who now chairs the journalism department at Emerson College in Boston, dived into public records to trace what happened to the recipients of his grandfather’s generosity-and to their children and grandchildren. When he could, he interviewed the families connected to those long-ago, modest gifts. In telling their stories, the book becomes a portrait of endurance and recovery, as well as of a community in the throes of the Great Depression.

It was a honor to have a journalist of Ted’s caliber on our little Sunday evening show. I hope to have him back again to talk about the future of journalism real soon.

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