July 08, 1996 12:00 PM

by Marshall Frady

Jesse Jackson has been in America’s consciousness (and face) for 30 years now, and we still don’t know quite what to make of him. In this revealing biography, Frady pins down the elusive preacher long enough for readers to get a fix on his true identity.

Frady—who covered the latter days of the civil rights movement for Newsweek and who writes for The New Yorker—dogged Jackson on a two-year, 400,000-mile road trip and brought back a portrait of a man of many parts: Jackson crying with Armenian earthquake victims, keeping hope alive for striking factory workers, and imploring, of all people, Pope John Paul II to raise the volume about the evils of apartheid.

Frady also shows us Jackson at home, making major decisions while putting on his socks. Not all of them are good Ones. His leaps into the 1984 and ’88 presidential primaries were viewed by many as selling out his spiritual franchise for a more powerful pulpit on Pennsylvania Avenue.

In 1990, Jackson took his global ministry to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein held foreign hostages in Baghdad and Kuwait City. Jackson convinced a skittish Hussein to free more than 300 of them. It may have been his finest hour. (Random House, $28.50)

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