L12_markmesserly's Reviews > Ayn Rand and the World She Made

Ayn Rand and the World She Made by Anne C. Heller
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Feb 29, 2012

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This review pertains to the Kindle edition.

Author Anne C. Heller chronicles Ayn Rand’s life, from Rand’s familial Russian roots through the development and maturation of her Objectivist philosophy. Heller did not have access to the extensive documentation under the control of Rand’s estate. Her vast source materials (documented in over 100 pages of endnotes) include private taped interviews, documents from the Library of Congress, and other materials obtained from Russia or through the Freedom of Information Act.

Rand’s most popular novels, Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged continue to sell hundreds of thousands of copies annually. The embedded philosophical messages continue to influence debate in political, religious, social, and economic circles. In the first chapter, Heller states that Rand concluded, “Political and philosophical ideas, especially those that are heroically clothed and set in large-scale social novels, have the power to shape perceptions and change the world” (p. 31). The didactic nature of Rand’s novels stirs controversy. This reviewer believes that their literary characteristics, in addition to the greater philosophical issues, merit consideration for classroom use.

This autobiography is best suited for high school students, primarily due to the predominance of Rand’s life and authorship relative to the development of her philosophical ideas. There are no lurid or offensive sections, although some complex adult relationships dominate the final third of the book.

There are vast possibilities for classroom discussions, particularly for extensive units based upon character studies, philosophical musings, literary merit, etc. One possibility would focus upon comparisons of Rand’s actual familial situation in Russia with that of the fictional setting in Rand’s novel We the Living. This novel could further serve numerous purposes as a classroom book club selection, independent of the biography.

High school students interested in the lives of other influential women may also enjoy Phoebe Hoban’s Alice Neel: The Art of Not Sitting Pretty (ISBN: 9780312607487) or Gail Levin’s Lee Krasner: A Biography (ISBN: 9780061845253.

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