8 Patriotic Books That'll Help You Celebrate Independence Day!
Patriotic books about America you won't want to miss!
Books About America To Read This Summer
Much of U.S. history is dark, bloody, viewed through rose-tinted glasses, or forgotten altogether. That doesn't do anyone any favors. It doesn't fix ongoing problems, and it tempts history to repeat itself. These eight books each paint a much more realistic picture than the sanitized version of American history we were taught in school.
When you get home from grilling hotdogs and eating potato salad at a 4th of July cookout or watching the fireworks, crack open or get the ebook version of one of these patriotic books and absorb some U.S. history to celebrate.
1. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn
What is great about A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn is that it "chronicles American history from the bottom up." Rather than focusing on the big names everyone knows, it focuses on "the street, the home and the workplace." This is a far cry from what's taught in school in which the average person is an afterthought at best. Many of the topics covered include labor rights such as fair wares, child-labor laws, and eight-hour work days, universal suffrage, racial equality, women's rights, and more, all of which carried out by grassroots organizations.
2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Sociologist Matthew Desmond's Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City is a look at American families living in poverty. For those who have never experienced poverty, it is an eyeopening experience as it strives to uncover economic exploitation that causes families to become impoverished. The book follows eight families in Milwaukee, six struggling families and two landlords, leaving readers with "unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible."
3. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Slavery may have legally ended in the United States in 1865, but that doesn't mean equality suddenly existed. Nothing could be farther from the truth, which is what Michelle Alexander delves into in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. The end of slavery gave way to Jim Crow, racist laws which eventually became illegal. Then came the rise of mass incarceration in the United States during the War on Drugs. Men of color were hit the hardest and incarcerated at much higher rates and given more time than white men for committing the same crime, and often for committing lesser crimes. Alexander's book argues "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it."
4. Revisioning American History Series
This one may be cheating a little because it contains four books, but the entire Revisioning American History series is worthy of this list! A Queer History of the United States by Michael Bronski uses literature, primary documents, and culture history to tell the story of LGBT history in the U.S. from 1492 to the 1990s.
Kim E. Nielsen's A Disability History of the United States looks at how disability has "deeply shaped the American experience--from deciding who was allowed to immigrate to establishing labor laws and justifying slavery and gender discrimination."
In Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States, the myth that the U.S. was founded for religious freedom is challenged, focusing on the genocidal and colonialist practices that actually took place.
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz challenges concepts like manifest destiny and instead highlights African American, Latinx, and Indigenous people and "transforms U.S. history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism."
5. To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America by Lillian Faderman
Lillian Faderman is a known queer historian, releasing prominent books such as The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, Harvey Milk: His Lives and Death, and Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. In To Believe in Women: What Lesbians Have Done For America, Faderman focuses on the ways in which lesbians and queer women in the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century were often at the forefront of things such as social justice, securing voting rights, and education in the United States.
6. Triangle: The Fire That Changed America by David von Drehle
On March 25, 1911, workers in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in Greenwich Village were preparing to leave for the day when a fire broke out. It was common practice at the time to lock stairwells and exits from factories so workers couldn't leave, a practice the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory employed. As a result, 143 people died. They were mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women, two as young as 14. Triangle: The Fire that Changed America by David von Drehle poignantly recounts the fire and the subsequent changes to labor laws that followed.
7. The Story of America: Essays on Origins by Jill Lepore
Jill Lepore's The Story of America: Essays on Origins is a series of essays about the history of the U.S., covering a variety of different topics that all come to the conclusion that "American democracy is bound up with the history of print. Over the centuries, Americans have read and written their way into a political culture of ink and type." The essays encompass centuries of United States history, all involving the written word. Along the way, Lepore has fresh takes on accounts of the Great Depression, novels of immigrants, and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven."
8. Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II by Liza Mundy
During World War II, codebreakers worked tirelessly in the attempt to crack enemy codes and translate information intercepted Axis powers. What many people don't know is that more than 10,000 of these codebreakers were women, recruited from elite colleges and small towns alike. Liza Mundy's Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II chronicles the lives of these women and their contributions that greatly shortened the war. Their accomplishments were nearly lost to history due to a vow of secrecy they were required to take, but thanks to Mundy's research and interviews with surviving code girls, their stories will forever be preserved in our historical record.
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