Scott Klemm's Reviews > America

America by Kevin Baker
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Jun 10, 2011

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Kevin Baker’s “America: The Story of Us” is a one volume illustrated history of the United States from 1497 to 2010. History need not be boring, and Baker has done a wonderful job of making the story of our nation interesting. The numerous charts and diagrams showing such things as the differences between Union and Confederate soldiers or how an atomic bomb works, is one of the features that attracted me to the book.

Obviously in a one volume work, the author must make decisions on what to include and what to leave out. I was surprised that the subchapter on the First World War was only 2 pages long (a mere 4 paragraphs with 2 pictures). On the other hand, the subchapter detailing the harsh working conditions of the Lowell textile mill merited 4 pages (or 14 paragraphs). Baker appears to be primarily interested in social history with the emphasis on reformers, civil rights, and the changing demographics of America.

Although I am a retired high school history teacher, I found interesting details in the book that I did not previously know. Unfortunately, the book contains no endnotes to reveal where this information came from. Even the photo credits are not complete. When I came across a color photo of a burning Indian village with bodies lying on the ground, I found that it was not listed. Apparently it’s a scene from a movie.

I noticed one error near the end of the book. Baker wrote that President Obama’s grandfather “had ridden in Patton’s tanks against the German Reich.” Is this a reference to the North African campaign and Hussein Onyango Obama? If so, Kenya at this time was ruled by the British and Hussein Onyango Obama was in the King's African Rifles. According to “The Untold Story of an African Family: The Obamas” (page 161), Hussein Onyango was a cook and served in Ethiopia against the Italians and in Burma against the Japanese.

If Baker was referring to Obama's other grandfather on his mother's side, Stanley Durham, it too is still incorrect. Durham was a supply sergeant for the 1830th Ordiance Supply & Maintenance Co., Aviation. Six weeks after the Normandy Invasion, he did follow the Allied front across France servicing airfields. He did not ride a tank or see combat.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Scott Klemm Thanks, Fabi. Glad you liked my review. I sometimes wonder if anyone has looked at them.

message 2: by Jdaniels (new)

Jdaniels Great review! As a history major in college, footnotes and endnotes are one of the first things I look for in a history book - often they're more interesting than the book itself! I think the lack of notes and the "picking and choosing" of information would really annoy me with this book.

Paul Curcione Good stuff, Scott.

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