Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

Flight of the WASP

The Rise, Fall, and Future of America’s Original Ruling Class

by Michael Gross

Fifteen families. Four hundred years. The complex saga of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant elite in America’s history.

  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date November 14, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6186-4
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date November 14, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6188-8
  • US List Price $30.00

For decades, writers from Cleveland Amory to Joseph Alsop to the editors of Politico have proclaimed the diminishment of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who for generations were the dominant socio-cultural-political force in America. While the WASP elite has, in the last half century, indeed drifted from American centrality to the periphery, its relevance and impact remain, as Michael Gross reveals in his compelling chronicle.

From Colonial America’s founding settlements through the Gilded Age to the present day, Gross traces the complex legacy of American WASPs—their profound accomplishments and egregious failures—through the lives of fifteen influential individuals and their very privileged, sometimes intermarried families. As the Bradford, Randolph, Morris, Biddle, Sanford, Peabody and Whitney clans progress, prosper and periodically stumble, defining aspects in the four-century sweep of American history emerge: our wide, oft-contentious religious diversity; the deep scars of slavery, genocide, and intolerance; the creation and sometime mis-use of astonishing economic and political power; an enduring belief in the future; an instinct to offset inequity with philanthropy; an equal capacity for irresponsible, sometimes wanton, behavior.

“American society was supposed to be different,” writes Gross, “but for most of our history we have had a patriciate, an aristocracy, a hereditary oligarchic upper class, who initiated the American national experiment.” In previous acclaimed books such as 740 Park and Rogues’ Gallery, Gross has explored elite culture in microcosm; expanding the canvas, Flight of the WASP chronicles it across four centuries and fifteen generations in an ambitious and consequential contribution to American history.

Praise for Flight of the WASP:

“Illuminating . . . It is the virtue of his book that it brings the now defunct patricians to life in all their doubleness, begetters of American prosperities who drove themselves crazy trying to heal American hysterics.”—Michael Knox Beran, Air Mail

“A formal, sincere and rather crowded portrait gallery.”—Alexandra Jacobs, New York Times

“Delightfully provocative . . . The book’s real delight lies in its brisk biographies of the people who illustrate the ascent and descent of WASP hegemony . . . Well-researched and well-written, Gross’ portrait gallery will, if nothing else, illuminate the odd corners of the lives of our nation’s elite and American history itself.”BookPage (starred review)

“A thoughtful deep dive into the history of the country and who has wielded power here, but is kept lively thanks to Gross’s ability to spin yarns that make even the Pilgrims feel exciting.”Town & Country

“An immersive and nuanced group portrait of New England’s elite from 1609 to today . . . Gross takes detours into extended considerations of areas in which his subjects had a hand, such as the displacement of Indigenous peoples and the study of eugenics. Striking an expert balance between the big picture and intimate thumbnails, this is an enlightening study of American culture.”Publishers Weekly

“A critical history of the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant cohort of American society, once dominant, now descending . . . Readable and engaging.”Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Michael Gross:

“Does not skimp on the gossipy goods. There are descents into madness, prolific drug use, orgies, blackmail photos and suicide attempts . . . Also smart, well-researched and written with an insider’s eye . . . Engaging and on point.”—New York Times Book Review, on Focus

“A delicious read. Sweeping . . . Thoughtful.”—Daily Beast, on Focus
“I thought I knew practically everything about the fashion industry, but Michael Gross has corrected me. His thoroughly absorbing narrative dazzles with the most profound investigation and research. Focus is an enthralling and riveting read!”—Tim Gunn

“Michael Gross . . . rules[s] the school of literature you might call Books About Buildings Where Lots of Rich People Live.”—Vanity Fair, on House of Outrageous Fortune

“[Tom] Wolfe’s gift was in summing up an era through his description of [Sherman] McCoy and his environs. Michael Gross has done likewise by taking us inside the most expensive, most powerful address in the world . . . Stunning.”—CNN, on House of Outrageous Fortune

“Michael Gross, an author with a delicate appreciation for bloated egos and wealth, makes them glitter in House of Outrageous Fortune: Fifteen Central Park West, the World’s Most Powerful Address. The intersecting strands of money, politics, greed, taste, ambition shine brightly.”—Bloomberg News

“Compulsively readable.”—Liesl Schillinger, New York Times, on 740 Park

“A blockbuster exhibition of human achievement and flaws.”—New York Times Book Review, on Rogues’ Gallery

“Gross demonstrates he knows his stuff. It’s a terrific tale . . . Gossipy, color-rich, fact-packed . . . What Gross reveals is stuff that more people should know.”—USA Today, on Rogues’ Gallery

“Michael Gross has proven once again that he is a premier chronicler of the rich. Rogues’ Gallery is an insightful, entertaining look at a great institution-with all its flaws and all its greatness.”—Gay Talese

“One long, scurrilously detailed dish. The first comprehensive history of modeling and a chewy read.”—Harper’s Bazaar, on Model

“Gossipy, bitchy and probably seminal. Gross pulls no punches. Model is a litany of skullduggery and dirty dealings.”—San Francisco Examiner

Author Tour Dates



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