JFK: Coming of Age in the American Century, 1917-1956 is a non-fiction book by pulitzer prize winning author Fredrik Logevall, released by Random House in 2020, that illuminates the education, military service, and political career of an American president whose early years set the stage for his knowledge of international relations. This knowledge provided him the ability as President to steer the nation through the most perilous deadlocks and short term victories of the cold war, including the disastrous attempt to thwart Castro’s Communist takeover of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, and the beginning of military détente with the Soviet Union. JFK’s presidency will be covered in a yet to be released companion volume also authored by Logevall.
The novel successfully unveils John F. Kennedy’s early relationships, his formative WWII experiences, his ideas, writings, and most significantly his political aspirations which the author believed took shape at an early age and were independent of his father’s desire for him to enter public life. The author follows Kennedy through the birth of the Cold War, first showing Kennedy’s awareness as a young journalist in 1945 of the threat of an imperialistic Russia, and noting Kennedy’s grasp of international relations due in part to his Harvard education in Political Science, and his accurate feelings for the substance and motivation of the world leaders he met in his early life as a wealthy son of the British ambassador. He learned more about the international climate during his far-ranging global junkets in 1951 as a young Senator.