Myth America Historians take on the biggest legends and lies about our past

Book - 2022

"The United States is in the grip of a crisis of bad history. Inaccurate interpretations and outright misrepresentations of the past--cultivated within and promoted by the conservative movement and right-wing media over the last several decades-hold sway among large numbers of Americans, damaging our public discourse. In Myth America, historians Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer have assembled an all-star team of historians to provide textured analysis that explains what we get wrong about the... past. Drawing on their immense knowledge of scholarship and their own primary research, these contributors provide correctives to the ways conservatives distort history to serve the needs of their anti-democratic agenda. For instance: Erika Lee shows how, far from posing a relentless threat to America, immigrants have long been recruited and even coerced to come to the United States. Joshua Zeitz traces how the welfare programs of the Great Society, criticized by the right as wasteful failures, have provided millions of Americans with food security, health care, and education. Carol Anderson uncovers how racism and anxiety over the nation's changing demographics, not voter fraud, are motivating Republicans' assault on voting rights. Elizabeth Hinton reveals that, rather than curbing crime, patrolling low-income communities with outside police forces has historically intensified violence and made everyone less safe. Taken together, the essays unveil how corporate interests and right-wing politicians use bad history to fan the flames of white resentment and unravel America's social safety net. Replacing myths with research and reality, Myth America is essential reading amid today's heated debates about our nation's past"--

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2nd Floor New Shelf 973/Myth (NEW SHELF) Due May 30, 2023
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New York : Basic Books 2022.
First edition
Physical Description
viii, 390 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 313-367) and index.
  • American exceptionalism /
  • David A. Bell
  • Founding myths /
  • Akhil Reed Amar
  • Vanishing Indians /
  • Ari Kelman
  • Immigration /
  • Erika Lee
  • America first /
  • Sarah Churchwell
  • The United States is an empire /
  • Daniel Immerwahr
  • The border /
  • Geraldo Cadava
  • American socialism /
  • Michael Kazin
  • The magic of the marketplace /
  • Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
  • The New Deal /
  • Eric Rauchway
  • Conderate monuments /
  • Karen L. Cox
  • The Southern strategy /
  • Kevin M. Kruse
  • The good protest /
  • Glenda Gilmore
  • White backlash /
  • Lawrence B. Glickman
  • The Great Society /
  • Joshua Zeitz
  • Police violence /
  • Elizabeth Hinton
  • Insurrection /
  • Kathleen Belew
  • Family values feminism /
  • Natalia Mehlman Petrzela
  • Reagan revolution /
  • Julian E. Zelizer
  • Voter fraud /
  • Carol Anderson.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Historical truths counteract America's crisis of disinformation in these illuminating and sharply written essays gathered by Princeton historians Kruse (White Flight) and Zelizer (Burning Down the House). Seeking to discredit right-wingers who have "sought to retrofit history as a rationale for present policies and programs" and debunk more widespread myths rooted in American exceptionalism, the contributors cover a wide range of issues. Erika Lee (America for Americans) explains that xenophobic immigration laws, including the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, fail to acknowledge that foreigners don't just "come" to the U.S., but are "pushed, lured, and brought" to serve America's economic interests, and notes that by the time Donald Trump announced his presidential candidacy in 2015, more Mexican immigrants were returning to Mexico than arriving in the U.S. Daniel Immerwahr (How to Hide an Empire) refutes politicians from both parties who claim that the U.S. is not an empire; Karen L. Cox (No Common Ground) reveals the links between Confederate monuments, white supremacist groups, and Jim Crow laws; and Carol Anderson (The Second) documents how claims of voter fraud have been used since Reconstruction to disenfranchise minority groups. Distinguished by its impressive roster of contributors and lucid arguments, this ought to be required reading. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

Princeton Univ. historians Kruse (One Nation Under God) and Zelizer (Burning Down the House) combined their talents to edit this collection of essays written by historians seeking to set the record straight on a variety of issues, including immigration, imperialism, and the right to protest. The authors contend that Americans are living in an age of disinformation, which is dangerously weakening the country's democracy. Essays are used to bolster the strength of the editors' argument that while the Trump administration is responsible for pushing the country to its "crisis point," this was only possible because of changes allowing right-wing myths to have an impact on American life--namely, the development and growth of conservative media outlets and what the book calls the "devolution of the Republican party's commitment to the truth." The authors successfully correct myths, providing historical context and research and making this a compelling collection for readers interested in politics, government, and history. Readers can expect 20 essays on different discourses written by historians such as Glenda Gilmore, Ari Kelman, and Carol Anderson. VERDICT The authors and editors set some misinformation straight in this highly readable collection. Recommended as a general purchase for all libraries.--Mattie Cook

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

Skilled historians attempt to refute the myths and misstatements about the American past that add to the confusions and bitterness of today's politics. Edited by well-known Princeton historians Kruse and Zelizer, the collection includes an impressive roster of contributors, including Michael Kazin, Erika Lee, Ari Kelman, Akhil Reed Amar, Carol Anderson, Naomi Oreskes, and Eric M. Conway. Among the targets are a host of flawed yet widespread beliefs: that Native Americans have played no significant role in American history; the Southern border has been a sieve allowing the entry of dangerous immigrants; socialism is a foreign import; the New Deal and Great Society failed; voter fraud has been commonplace; feminism has aimed to destroy the American family. Some essays are especially compelling. Drawing from his recent book, Daniel Immerwahr analyzes the mistaken belief that the U.S. is not an empire. Lawrence W. Glickman's exemplary contribution on White backlash shows how myths originate and how historians can identify them, evaluate their substance, and deal with their internal inconsistencies. However, too many of the essays are slapdash, and the text has no center. Contributors often fail to adequately explain how myths originate in kernels of fact and, more importantly, what human needs they satisfy, and the myths they evaluate are mostly those of today's right wing--as if the left doesn't possess its own set of myths that require deconstruction. Furthermore, too many contributors display more scorn than sober analysis, often engaging in mere dismissal of other arguments or ideological stances--e.g., "the really staunch Right wacko vote." In some essays, the contributors don't offer enough context or sufficient explanation for their decision to examine a particular myth. The result is a work that, lacking careful editorial oversight, is less coherent and credible than its serious purpose warrants--or as incisive as we would expect from its esteemed contributors. A book whose worthy aim remains unfulfilled. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.