In college, I took a class on Ronald Reagan. I loved history, and because I was simultaneously taking my dreadfully exhausting capstone, I was trying to limit the amount of time I actual went to and from and sat in physical classes. So I signed up for online classes, as well as one dedicated to the former president that met every Wednesday evening for three hours. (We closed the magazine issue on Wednesday mornings, so yes, yes I slept through most of this class. Still managed to get that A though!)
My professor promised on day one that we would never be able to guess his political leanings, and he was right. Major props to him even if I slept through his lectures. I actually did learn a lot in that class and enjoyed the reading and studying for the exams (you can’t actually be surprised by that statement). He taught me one thing in particular that I’ll never forget and that I’m continuously reminded of in 2020 and with the most recent book I read, American Spy: The main difference between Republicans and Democrats is that the former believes America is the Beacon on the Hill, and the latter does not. Talk about a watershed moment for yours truly.
This moment has replayed itself many times for me in 2020, including when I recently watched an AJ+ video about American exceptionalism (thanks for the rec, Rachel Cargle). And then the next week, I started American Spy, which zeroes in on this exact topic. This is basically a longwinded way of me saying that unfortunately American exceptionalism is stronger than ever, and it’s been on my mind constantly. I’ve witnessed way too much backlash proclaiming this country doesn’t need to change and that it is the best place on Earth.
I’m sure I will lose some readers when I say that it is in fact not the best place on Earth and that there is room to improve.
That’s not to say you can’t love America while simultaneously wishing for change. If you don’t believe me, I suggest you read American Spy. The main character is the perfect character study in having doubts about your country but being an active participant to catalyze change. Thankfully, there are a plethora of authors who have chosen to use their incredible stories as teaching moments for this topic. I can only hope that one day America’s ego will somewhat deflate.
- What: Revolutionary
- Who: Alex Myers
- Pages: 307, soft cover
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Published: 2014
- The lit: of 5 flames
I came across Revolutionary thanks to my friend Katie (a fellow cat lover) who sent me the following text after an invitation to an event:
“I figured Revolutionary history, novels, and wine might me up your alley.”
It didn’t matter what this was regarding. I was going to be interested no matter what. Katie had found that the New-York Historical Society was hosting an event with author Alex Myers who wrote a novel about Revolutionary War veteran Deborah Samson. You read that right; indeed, the name Deborah and Revolutionary War were in the same sentence.
I had actually heard about Deborah Samson a few years ago after a visit to Philadelphia and was intrigued by the woman who masqueraded as a man to fight for our nation’s freedom. I always imagined her as someone who fought for women’s right and to break down walls. The event with Myers, though, was about transgender identity. Sure, my original assumptions about this patriot still applied, but was there another story here? Something I had never considered before? I was about to find out.
Yes, that is my very own tricorn.
- What: My Dear Hamilton
- Who: Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie
- Pages: 621, soft cover (637 if you count the must-read “Note from the Authors” section)
- Genre: Historical fiction
- Published: 2018
- The lit: of 5 flames
Remember my post about July 4th reads? It’s time to add one more.
What can I say about this book besides it was a roller coaster of emotions? Oy vey. I actually think my body and mind morphed into Eliza Hamilton’s. At one moment, I was praising Alexander Hamilton as the greatest American who ever lived — oh how we should bow down.
The next, he was the scum of the earth.
Then, he was OK. A typical man. Nobody’s perfect after all.
Then came the existential depression.
And just as Monroe was ushering in the Era of Good Feelings to our country, I was starting to balance out again too.
The capricious emotions this book evoked are nothing new; in fact, they symbolize America’s complicated relationship with Hamilton. We want to love him, but his many faults don’t always make it easy. I’m sure the Mrs. would testify to that.
You know that horrible question that comes up during ice breakers, “Tell us something people would be surprised to know about you.”
Dammit, Brenda, I don’t know. My life is not that interesting.
Well, two years ago I finally figured out my answer: I like war. Not in the gruesome way. More like I have an affinity for war themes in pop culture. The Patriot, Saving Private Ryan, Lone Survivor, Glory, Top Gun (OK, maybe this last one is a stretch). I love them all. Now maybe this won’t surprise many people, but let’s consider my love for rom coms and chick lit. There’s a sharp contrast there. When you think about how much I love nonfiction, it starts to click a bit.
Now let’s combine that passion for my obsession with colonial America and the Revolutionary War. Every year in the days leading up to my country’s birthday, I pray The Patriot will be on TV, as well as PBS’ Liberty’s Kids series (don’t judge; it’s an excellent show). Anything and everything that has to do with the Revolutionary War and our country’s independence has me jumping for joy.
Sean Combs has greatly influenced American culture: He taught us it’s cool to change your name about five times, he was the ultimate Bad Boy, he gave us Danity Kane for goodness sake. Most importantly, he proudly professed the importance of voting. While his “Vote or Die!” campaign was intended for politics, there’s no reason we can’t use it for choosing America’s greatest read.
This summer PBS has premiered an eight-part series, The Great American Read, which will determine the great U.S. of A.’s favorite literary tale. The program promotes literacy across the country (yay!!) while touching on individual stories of literary impact.
This is clearly an opportunity to invoke Diddy’s mantra, except the consequences for not participating aren’t quite so severe.