“Inventing American History” (Boston Review Books/MIT Press)

Happy to see that a piece quoting me in today’s NYT “Week in Review” also mentions my book Inventing American History. Unlike my two highly narrative works of founding history, this little hardcover takes on recent public phenomena like the Alexander Hamilton cult, the lionizing of Pete Seeger and William F. Buckley, and the sheer banality of the National Constitution Center to air out ways in which history is used and abused politically, across the spectrum, for general audiences and public settings. Scenes shift from the 1930s Stalinist American left to the Jim Crow South to East Berlin’s Memorial to the Victims of Fascism and Militarism — and to the huge surveillance camera that now sits in tower of Independence Hall, where the liberty bell once rang (it’s true). And there’s a preface, written on election night 2008, recalling my family’s trips to that weird, bygone place the National Wax Museum in Washington, D.C. The book is dedicated to my bothers.

This is a small, beautifully designed book, and as an untrained (self-invented!) historian and critic, I’m especially pleased to be part of the prestigious Boston Review Books series from MIT Press. As the more critical work, it hasn’t had the publicity that my S&S narratives have, but I think it’s a fairly fun read of a different kind, so it’s good to see it get a mention in the Times.

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