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These Truths: A History of the United States Kindle Edition
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From the Publisher
- Andrew Sullivan, New York Times Book Review
“This sweeping, sobering account of the American past is a story not of relentless progress but of conflict and contradiction, with crosscurrents of reason and faith, black and white, immigrant and native, industry and agriculture rippling through a narrative that is far from completion.”
- New York Times Book Review (editors' choice)
“[Lepore’s] one-volume history is elegant, readable, sobering; it extends a steadying hand when a breakneck news cycle lurches from one event to another, confounding minds and churning stomachs.”
- Jennifer Szalai, New York Times
“Jill Lepore is an extraordinarily gifted writer, and These Truths is nothing short of a masterpiece of American history. By engaging with our country's painful past (and present) in an intellectually honest way, she has created a book that truly does encapsulate the American story in all its pain and all its triumph.”
- Michael Schaub, NPR
“Lepore’s brilliant book, These Truths, rings as clear as a church bell, the lucid, welcome yield of clear thinking and a capable, curious mind.”
- Karen R. Long, Newsday
“This vivid history brings alive the contradictions and hypocrisies of the land of the free.”
- David Aaronovitch, The Times
“A history for the 21st century, far more inclusive than the standard histories of the past.”
“Monumental…a crucial work for presenting a fresh and clear-sighted narrative of the entire story…exciting and page-turningly fascinating, in one of those rare history books that can be read with pleasure for its sheer narrative energy.”
- Simon Winchester, New Statesman
“Jill Lepore is that rare combination in modern life of intellect, originality, and style.”
- Amanda Foreman, Times Literary Supplement
“In her epic new work, Jill Lepore helps us learn from whence we came.”
- O, The Oprah Magazine --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
- File Size : 115520 KB
- Publication Date : September 18, 2018
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print Length : 955 pages
- Publisher : W. W. Norton & Company; Illustrated Edition (September 18, 2018)
- Enhanced Typesetting : Enabled
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Language: : English
- X-Ray : Enabled
- ASIN : B07BLKWBYT
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #8,973 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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This book has been heavily touted.
That makes it all the more disconcerting to see an error as early as page 8 and a whopper to boot.
(Update, Feb. 17, 2020: I appear to have picked up a Junebug in comments, who, despite having only reviewed one nonfiction book in their last 50 or so reviews over the last 3-4 years, is apparently buns-hurt or something that I don't like this book as story.
The bad pun of "story" inside the word "history" aside, history as a story, if it's done right, starts with proven facts in evidence. When an empirical item has more than one interpretation [such as whether or not a paleoastronomy pictograph at Chaco represents the Crab Nebula supernova] history done right works with the most reasonable interpretation of said item. In linking empirical items, plus a priori items like correct dates, together, it then when done right works to offer the most reasonable interpretation of why events happened. Junebug, when asked, has not demonstrated where my demonstration of Lepore getting empirical evidence and a priori data like calendar dates incorrect is wrong. Nor other things.
Other than his buns-hurt-ness over me not liking this as a story, comparable to the novels he likes, he may have some desire for having the last word. Well ... )
Indeed, beyond that as representative of numerous errors of fact, there’s numerous arguable errors of interpretation, and dubious decisions what to contain and what to omit.
Behind THAT, as Gertrude Stein said of Oakland, as far as I can tell, there’s no “there” there.
With that, let’s dig in.
Page 8: No, pre-Columbian American Indians did NOT herd pigs because there were none in the New World!
18: Contra Lepore, plenty of plants went from New World to Old, and quickly became common parts of Old World diets. Tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, maize and chiles are the obvious ones.
33: Kind-of sort-of on the Virginia Colony. Its original grant went to today’s Canadian border on the coast; a reformulation in 1609 changed that. Hence the worries of the Separtists fears of settling in Plimouth in 1620, even though they had no charter from the crown for anywhere.
By page 45 or so, I realized that I would find little to nothing in the book in the way of facts that were new to me.
So, I started skipping and grokking. (Flame me, those who will.)
116ff. Ignores larger background of Shays Rebellion, and issues related to this in the Washington Administration, ie, the promissory notes for land offered to veterans, speculation on them and repurchase, etc.
145: America had political factions, and alliances, of various sorts long before federalists and anti-federalists. And the Founders knew that. 1790s newspapers did not spring parties into being, and the Founders should have known that.
World War I take? Wasting pages on Germany being criticized by fundamentalists for higher criticism, and making that the intro to Bryan and Scopes, with almost zero coverage of the controversy over entry into the war itself, and Bryan’s time as Secretary of State? Horrible. As for Wilson’s health, he arguably had at least one mild-moderate stroke, and more than one mini-strokes or TIAs, a few years before the War.
242: Polk couldn’t have “wanted to acquire Florida,” as the U.S. had acquired it all by 1821
242: Russia had renounced its Oregon claims by the time Polk became President. Spain had in the Adams-Onis treaty sidebars, and thus, any later Mexican claims (contra Lepore, there surely weren’t) would be rejected by the US anyway.
250: No, the Mexican War boundary line did NOT end up at the 36th parallel of latitude after Polk allegedly gave up on seeking the 26th parallel. El Paso is at the 32nd parallel. The Mexico-California border is approximately 32°30’. Also, I’ve never seen claims that Polk wanted Mexico down to the 26th parallel. Indeed, Polk even specifically mentions the 32nd parallel in his December, 1847 State of the Union. (I'll put a URL in comments, because AMAZON!)
(I jumped back here after moving ahead to WWI, as she said little about Spanish settlement in today’s Southwest. She had little more on New Mexico of wartime Mexico’s possession.)
Even worse, on her Polk land-seeking claims, this heavily footnoted book had NO footnotes.
406: No, most the world did NOT support “free trade” before WWI.
408: No, the 1924 immigration bill did not make immigrant proportional to current (of that time) population. It went back to the ethnic numbers of the 1890 Census.
410: I see no need to put “illegal alien” in scare quotes after first reference.
450: Doesn’t mention FDR playing a behind-the-scenes role in the defeat of Upton Sinclair. Doesn’t even mention that he refused to publicly endorse him. Doesn’t mention that he tried to get Sinclair to drop out and that support was offered to GOP incumbent Merriam when he refused.
452: No, the American PR factory was not democracy’s answer to fascism. In the US, it goes back at least as far as Teddy Roosevelt. And LePore even mentions Emil Hurja’s pre-1933 work. David Greenberg has the correct answers on all of this in “Republic of Spin." (I'll put a URL in comments, because AMAZON!)
548: AFL-CIO (and big biz) opposed Truman’s national health care plan, not just AMA. The unions saw health insurance as a recruiting tool.
717: Given that Bush v Gore was the apotheosis of a further rightward shift of the Supreme Court, it gets short shrift.
Basically, after I got a little way into the book, I began wondering what her intended audience was, and what her angle was. I had in mind something like Howard Zinn’s book. Zinn had several errors of interpretation, but he had an interpretive focus.
With LePore, as noted, it seems to be no “there” there, per Gertrude Stein. Yes, she goes intellectual with the extended references to John Locke. Yes, she goes deep history with several pages about Magna Carta (without telling you it was honored by English kings more in the breach than the observance up to the time of Charles I).
Then I realized: Her target audience is readers of the New Yorker plus non-social science batchelor’s level Harvard grads or something like that. Socially liberal — the repeated las Casas references as an example — but not economically leftist or close.
Wikipedia says: She has said, "History is the art of making an argument about the past by telling a story accountable to evidence".
I’m still not sure what argument she was trying to make in the whole book. I eventually grew tired of trying to figure it out.
I did learn tidbits and things, and learn enough about Lepore's writing, not to one-star it. Plus, I thought a two-star review would be less easily dismissed. That is, until Amazon being Amazon refused to accept the initial review because it had URLs in the body of the review.
So, Amazon, one-starred it here because of THAT!
I was looking for a refresher overview of American history and, while some might take exception to the events included or omitted, it is that. It is also full of interesting side notes about particular events. It is thoroughly footnoted.
Its weakness lies in the author’s subjective glosses. Sometimes they are inspiring and soaring. At other times they are just dubious spins. And some points, some of which were obvious to begin with (such as the dissonance between the Declaration of Independence’s soaring declaration “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” and the slavery of the time) are made over and over and over and over again and not always in a relevant context. Even though the point may be exceedingly valid, that can get tiresome.
In short I found the book to be a very mixed bag and can’t really recommend it.
Top reviews from other countries
The story of slavery and African Americans still sounds like a white person's narrative - the horrors are chronicled, but to me, a native of a country once colonized (India), it still reads like mostly a white view. In the words of the Grateful Dead, Mama tried. Did she succeed? I think not.
Part four (The Machine) 1946 to 2016 seems to have knocked the author off balance. This is history at least parts of which many readers have lived through and may have opinions on. The author seems to have a visceral dislike for Bill Clinton and he is heaped with opprobrium.
The author has a mostly negative view of the internet and social media. For us in the Third World, the internet has been truly a positive force. As a student, I remember struggling to find references because our libraries were (and still are) poorly funded. In the last decade or so, people like me can access virtually any document thanks to the internet.
Is a dystopian view of the future justified? The times they are achanging. As Bob Dylan said,
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin ....
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'