Anyone else reading this Fourth of July? :D
Fourth of July is synonymous with reading, right? Right? Alright, but I am looking forward to a long weekend to catch up on a few books and thought of the most patriotic ones that I've purchased or read, so I'm personally vouching for all of these (although I do have different eras of published editions) - and because I haven't yet been able to read everything, I look forward to your suggestions.
I'm a weird mix of fatalism and optimism, so my Americana runs in a bi-modal way. I do believe strongly in the promise of America, and what we've done in the short history of time is quiet amazing. Albeit, I have to argue, I think of 10s of 1000s of year epochs, so consider that a relative thousand years ago we had just gotten out of the Dark Ages. It's all perspective, innit?
"If you weren't an optimist, it would be impossible to be an architect." - Normal Foster
For any decision, I tend on the optimist side, I have to - I'd go crazy if not. So keeping that and continuing to tool the promise of freedom, democracy and ultimately, what is the very best of the whole that translates to the very best situation of the individual, the neighborhood, the community, the city, the county, the state...
With that, here are books I'm revisiting this coming weekend...
From a purely writing stand-point, the Declaration is beautiful prose and a powerful statement on the maturity of Western civilization. Encourage your children to read it through at least once to get the gist of what the quintessential of America was at the time - if anything the interposing lines and clashing of political thought and government.
Secondly, the Monticello.org site has a deep dive on the Declaration and how it fits organically today.
"Blue Sky, White Stars" by Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson ~ This is a book that will stay with you. Simplistic, with only 28 words overall, it's arresting juxtaposition does speak volumes otherwise. It invites children (or you) to consider carefully what those American values mean beyond the sometimes overused jingoism.
- "The Undefeated" by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson ~ Poetry set to Kadir Nelson's artwork - that's always a 'yes'. In this case, this poem gives children a idea of the African American identity. Must sneak in here John Uzodinma reading "Theme For English B by Langston Hughes"
> > > Langston Hughes' poetry reads to me as pure Americana - encapsulating struggle for freedom, navigating the perilousness of existence, the fragility of life. It was his experience we can relive and hopefully understand.
- "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane ~ Crane wrote this masterpiece at the age of 24 and Red Badge became an instant classic. For teens, this book recounts the psychological horrors of the Civi War from the eyes of naivity and innocence-turned-war weary. The allegory of the work is universal and some have found several ways to interpret.
"Shiloh: A Requiem (April, 1862)" by Herman Melville ~ And, as I typically do, I have to bookend any discussion of Red Badge with Herman Melville's haunting poem.
[GAME BREAK] Either a crack of nostalgia or perhaps a secretly disguised bit of awesome in the form of an early DOS PC game is The Oregon Trail, playable here.
"Weird But True! USA" National Geographic Kids ~ Sometimes a fun way to introduce kids to a concept are pure trivia and fact books. The National Geographic series was a hit in our house, mixing both colorful graphics and the most amazing of trivial facts. (And hopefully encouraging to look up more!)
[MUSIC BREAK] ~ Schoolhouse Rock! - The Great American Melting Pot - of course you should also see the beautifully restored (and canonical version) on Disney+ https://www.disneyplus.com/series/schoolhouse-rock/4AbEzzTxhWxZ
Poetry! What better way to enjoy the Fourth than visiting some essential American poetry in all its forms - from pre-America to current day, although, I'll be the first to
admit, I haven't broken out of the early 1990s yet. There is some early 2000s that I can surely rally around and be resonant over.
So here are a few of the books I'll be digging into next weekend (links to Barnes and Noble):
Stolen Moments, Oliver Nelson ~ last of Nelson's compositions, it is a chillingly, heart-stopping arrangement of pure jazz. Universal posted this perfectly renditioned version of it - 89k views, should be 100M! ;)
IN MY COLLECTION ALWAYS: (just different editions)
PROSE! (Links to Amazon)
"Founding Brothers" by Joseph J. Ellis ~ a powerhouse from its first words and, like a storm, you find yourself being pushed forward by these tremendous thinkers and the rush of the time.
"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison ~ a tour de force of taking the complex lines of race and struggle in America and finding a narrative to allow us to explore with the protagonist.
"Catch-22" by Joseph Heller ~ my fatalistic side takes over here, but, with all of its hopes, practicalities and contradictions, 'Catch' is a mash-up of my own life in the military, corporate and all of the seeming bullsh!t of life rolled up into a nice, happy bow.
"The Americans" by Daniel Boorstin ~ I've written and pored over this book multiple times, but, if you want a deep dive of 'America as biography' always start here.
[FURTHER AFIELD POETRY] SUMMER POETRY collection at Poetry Foundation.
Like that tension of Hughes' poetry, Simon & Garfunkel's America is the very literal search by a couple to 'find America'. The entire piece crescendos to the very promise and ultimate hope of our own piece in almost cacophonous flourish.
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