The difficulties of discussing the life of a controversial character are magnified in the case of Perón. Many of her followers saw her as a saint and actually sought canonization or sainthood for her in the Catholic church. Her detractors, however, stressed her illegitimate birth and claimed that she had been a prostitute. Fraser and Navarro handle the challenge of balance in their biography by allowing both admirers and enemies to speak. Yet, because the focus is on Perón and her supporters, the evidence in the text tends to favor her side.

The authors emphasize Perón’s troubled childhood as an explanation for her immense ambition. Fraser and Navarro place young Eva in the provincial town of Los Toldos, where Juana Ibarguren, the mistress of businessman Juan Duarte, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter on May 7, 1919. Ibarguren struggled to provide for her five children after Duarte left her to return to his legitimate wife. Perón endured the taunts and rejection of school classmates because of her mother’s reputation. This experience left her embittered and angry, and it gave her a strong sense of identification with society’s less-fortunate people: the poor, the powerless, and those who live outside the realm of social acceptability. At the age of fifteen, the small, dark-haired girl with large, expressive eyes left home to make a name for herself in the metropolis of Buenos Aires.

Within their favorable portrait of Perón, the authors point out some of her shortcomings, yet they see a pattern in which Perón confronted a challenge and then, against heavy odds, managed to overcome it. For example, she failed for several years as an actress but eventually found regular employment on popular radio dramas in the...

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