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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  187 ratings  ·  23 reviews
Using letters and other family documents, Frazier reconstructs two hundred years of middle-class life, visiting small towns his ancestors lived in, reading books they read, and discovering the larger forces of history that affected them. He observes some of them during the British raid on Danbury, Connecticut, in the Revolutionary War; he follows others west as they pionee ...more
Paperback, 400 pages
Published February 9th 2002 by Picador (first published October 31st 1994)
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Paula Hebert
I was surprised to see that this book was given 4 stars in the book lists. I became intrigued with the book when I heard the author read an excerpt from it on a prairie home companion, so went off to the local library, and dived in,. ian frazier comes from a very old american family, that can trace itself back to the 1600's, and who all seemed to be fanatical savers of documents, receipts, diaries, journals, letters, playbills, etc. so when his mother passed away, and he started going through al ...more
i'm ashamed to say it's been a long time since i read nonfiction besides biographies, but it has. this book was pretty much a biography in some ways about the author's extended family--Frazier describes in detail the character of his remote and close family members as he learned about them while doing genealogical research. But it was more than a biography in that it gave a very detailed history of small town life in midwest America pretty much from the Revolutionary War to the author's own mode ...more
What a thorough job Mr. Frazier has done in presenting his family from the early nineteenth century to the present day. He covers their activities in great detail, commenting on their daily activities, their idiosyncracies; the kind of information that gets passed on through oral sources. In addition to the family lore a bit of history, philosophic and religious viewpoints are presented. His ancestors participated in the civil war, at the battle of Chancellorsville, they were among the titans of ...more
Ronald Wilcox
Frazier took his research into his family's genealogy and made it into a mostly enjoyable reading experience because of the details he was able to gather about his ancestor's lives. He is able to really portray some of the Day to day experiences from delving deep into family papers. The major drawback is when he digs into the details of the Civil War in too much depth, drawing away from the connections to his family. A very good read for history buffs and for those interested in genealogy.
This was written in 1994 before Ian Frazier got famous. But, I think it is a great example of narrative historical non-fiction as applied to family history, which is what I want to try to write. He put his family history in the context of what was happening at the time of specific ancestors which really helps "flesh out" genealogy. Very readable.
When he died, Stonewall Jackson, who was a profoundly religious man, said, "let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees."
Ian Frazier writes, "Before the Civil War, America didn't know if it was a country or lots of different Promised Lands. People invented the America they wanted to live in and then struggled to live there. Across the river and under the trees combined all these invented countries into one. Across the river and under the trees descended like a beneficence
I made this a quick read because I was honestly just looking for any relation to my own family that's been in Ohio for a very long time... touching to read all the accounts of this man's family so far back.
N W James
Ian Frazier researches and reports on the people in his family tree.

Don't read this book unless you're really into other people's family history. Frazier's homage to his family is interesting in parts but very dry and scattered in others. There are huge sections of the book that describe historical events without mention to his family members. For instance, he spends 15 pages describing in great detail Lee's charge in Virginia (maps, letters, analysis of strategy) only to indirectly bring it bac
I have always loved family stories and memoirs, and I have done a good bit of genealogical research, so it would follow that I would really enjoy this book, which has been on my “to read” list for a long time. I’m sorry it didn’t work that way. I’m glad that Frazier included family tree charts for both his parents, which I referred to many times, especially in the beginning of the book. I found that parts of it dragged badly, although I was more interested near the end when Frazier tells of his ...more
This book is a concise genealogy. I read it for my historical research methods class at SUNY Brockport. The sub-topic was genealogy, and our million page papers were on our own family histories. I think it is a great thing to do for yourself and your family members, because when I found my grandfather's grandparents in England and Germany, my great Uncle Henry was ecstatic because he finally knew information he couldn't remember from his childhood. However, I don't know all that much about Ian F ...more
Peggy Troyer
Very different from Great Plains and On The Rez, a touching local history
Rocco Versaci
A thoroughly researched book in which Frazier retells the story of his family by tracing his roots back to Revolutionary War days and up through the present. He has a wonderful storyteller's voice, and each page is packed with original insights and unique turns of phrase. Taken as a whole, this book represents one of the noblest objective of the writer: to rescue the past--in this case, his own--from obscurity.
frazier's gifts as a writer shine in this climb through his family tree. deadpan, folksy, soulful, urbane, frazier captures the complexities of his family's unique history within the context of our country's history. lots of real people and their small eccentricities. ON THE REZ is another great Frazier book.
I thought reading about somebody else's family tree would be a bit self-indulgent, but this is a great book, interweaving history with the personal.

The Civil War stuff drags a bit, but overall I loved this book. Chapter 17 is wonderful - a potted social history of the US.
Oh, Ian Frazier, how I love thee.
Sure, you run on about the Civil War a little too long. But nobody's perfect.
And those passages about suburbia and your grandmother's suicide and Midwestern protestantism are so good that they knock the wind right out of me.
Mary Jo
An interesting way to learn about history that affects us all, through one man's story of his family. I gave up trying to keep up with all the family names but I like reading the quirky bits. Makes me more curious about my own ancestors.
Aug 17, 2008 Sam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Devon Balfour
It's kind of ridiculously self-indulgent that Frazier intertwines America's history with that of his family but he gets away with it by separating the "big statements" from the genealogy.

Total Americanist porn.
Dennis Noson
I was bowled over. Knocked in the head, and now I'm awake... to yet another dimension to the improbable history of the United States. Beautifully told, emotional and heart-felt.
This book made me want to be a writer and to wish I could tell the story of my family as well. It is a very rich story well told.
I just couldn't get into this one. Didn't finish it.
THIS is a my favorite book of all time.
Beth Shields-Szostak
1st edition, signed by author
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Ian Frazier (b.1951) is an American writer and humorist. He is the author of Travels in Siberia, Great Plains, On the Rez, Lamentations of the Father and Coyote V. Acme, among other works, all published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He graduated from Harvard University. A frequent contributor to The New Yorker, he lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
More about Ian Frazier...
Travels in Siberia Great Plains On the Rez The Cursing Mommy's Book of Days Gone to New York: Adventures in the City

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“Some settlers began with no implements but an ax. In conversation, the subject of axes--their ideal weight, their proper helves--was more popular than politics or religion. A man who made good axes, who knew the secrets of tempering the steel and getting the center of gravity right, received the celebrity of an artist and might act accordingly. The best ax maker in southern Indiana was "a dissolute, drunken genius, named Richardson." Men who really knew how to chop became famous, too. An ax blow requires the same timing of weight shift and wrist action as a golf swing, and as in golf those who where good at it taught others; sometimes all the men in one district learned their stroke from the same axman extraordinaire. A good stroke had a "sweetness" similar to the sound of a well-struck golf or tennis ball, and gave a satisfaction which moved the work along.” 3 likes
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