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on November 9, 2002
Joy Hakim has a gift for making you feel like you're sitting down with her for a chat over coffee while she tells you amazing stories about American history. As she leads you through the revolution, the making of a nation, to the brink of civil war you can feel the tension and issues at stake. By the time I got to the twentieth century I felt I really understood the evolution of the American experiment for the first time. She's got a bouncy style with her narrative, moving back and forth between the present tense and the past so you feel the immediacy of the events taking place. The book is particularly good with making sense of recent history and what how the past informs us about what's happening right now. I'll remember the stories, and therefore the history, that comes through so well in this book. The book is also beautifully illustrated. The cover conveys the drama that's contained inside. I recommend this book for anyone who has ever wished they knew more about American history but didn't want to read dry, boring books to get it.
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on October 14, 2002
Joy Hakim has done it again--this time for adults as well as young adults. My kids use A History of US books in school, and they rave about American history. Telling me stories about this person or that. Since moving away from bland textbooks and reading the exciting stories of our past in Hakim's books, their test scores have improved and they like history. It's amazing!
When I heard about Freedom I bought it immediately, and I can say that now I see what the fuss is all about. I'm loving it! I never knew that much about American history, but I feel like I'm really learning the basics. She really carries you along on an amazing journey--a page-turner that is sharp, engaging, critical, and full of flavor. The book is beautiful and I love the illustrations and asides. I've even given a copy to my parents to read. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to brush up on our nation's history.
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This is the most entertaining as well as one of the most informative history books I have ever read, the companion volume to the PBS series from Kunhardt Productions. However, it can stand alone on its own merits. It is also the basis of ten individual volumes in a series also written by Joy Hakim. Contrary to what other reviewers apparently think, I have no problem with the fact that the brief Foreword was co-written by George W. and Laura Bush. A close reading of this volume as well as of the ten volumes in the complementary series indicates no political bias whatsoever. Had the Foreword been written by Abraham Lincoln, would those sympathetic with the Confederate cause objected?
I am among those who attended public schools, grades 1-12, and whose understanding of U.S. history was based almost entirely on material in textbooks. Only later, in college and then in graduate school, did I realize how much the material in those textbooks had been sanitized. Having said that, I do not want to suggest that any of Hakim's narrative is controversial nor to suggest that the material she presents lacks authenticity. My point is, obviously, that history books can be -- indeed should be -- entertaining as well as informative. The Schamas (father and son) as well as McCullough, Edmund Morris, Ambrose, Foote, and countless other authors of bestsellers have certainly demonstrated that.
Following a brief Introduction, Hakim presents her material within 16 Parts, followed by the full text of "The Declaration of Independence" and then a cluster of brief excerpts from the Constitution of the United States selected by Henry J. Abraham and Barbara A. Perry, excerpted from their book, Freedom and the Court. As already indicated, I think the text is exceptionally well-written and also congratulate the producers of this book on the inclusion of hundreds of illustrations, many of them full-color reproductions of paintings by artists such as John Trumbull, Peter Rothermel, Emanuel Leutze, John Mix Stanley, Edward Hicks, George Caleb Bingham, John Gast, Charles T. Webber, Currier & Ives, Archibald Motley, Jr., O. Louis Guglielmi, Alexandre Hogue, William Johnson, Ben Shahn, and Norman Rockwell, The reader is also provided with an abundance of archival photographs, many of which I had not previously seen.
It would be a mistake to characterize this volume as a "coffee table book." True, that is where it has been placed in our living room but I hasten to add that almost all of those who visit us (including grandchildren) almost immediately pick it up and soon become engrossed in the text and illustrations. Unlike most other history books I have read over the years, I return to this one almost daily, either to read (or re-read) about a specific person and event, or, merely to browse. In another review, I will discuss the ten complementary volumes. Joy Hakim and her publisher, Oxford University Press, eminently deserve the praise they have received thus far and will continue to receive in years to come.
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on November 11, 2002
As a lover of American History I have found this book to be an easy read, but yet full of stories and not "facts." It was entertaining and informative. I would highly recommend that you read this book to gain an understanding of our own history and why it is so important to defend our freedom and the ability to make choices.
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on November 26, 2002
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the past, present, and future of American freedom. This book is a terrific read for parents and children alike. Hakim's narrative makes history come alive and the characters jump off of the page.
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on January 9, 2003
I don't usually write reviews, but I had to take a moment when I saw the numerous reviews from people who didn't appear to have even read the book (at least that's my perception after reading their segments)! This book is excellent - very well writen and insightful. Although for a histroy buff there wasn't anything really new to me, the fact that it isn't a hard-to-read tome makes it all the more accessible to the majority of readers...
That said, it seems that several reviewers were put-off by the choice of a President and First Lady being chosen to write the "Forward". Whether we like George Bush or agree with his politics is not the point here. He is our President and will have a place in our history - which is what this book celebrates - The History Of US. If one can't get past the fact Bush and Laura wrote the forward and are offended such that as a result one doesn't read the book, I don't know how one can truly review it? Just a thought for you to consider as you read these reviews...
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on March 4, 2003
Joy Hakim's history of American freedoms and freedom movements explores the foundations of the idea of freedom made by the founding fathers, juxtaposing vintage black and white photos with a lively history which features accounts of American heroes and ordinary people who have participated in struggles for freedom in this country. Add sidebars of historical information and you have Freedom: A History of Us, a fine history which invites leisure browsing.
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on January 27, 2003
Joy Hakim's 10 volume series already sits among our homeschool books, but I did not hesitate in purchasing Freedom. In organizing the book around the search for Freedom, she has focused and refined her wonderful storytelling skills. History is most interesting when individual stories are told, and that is what Hakim does with skill. This book appeals to everyone in our house, from my 11 year old daughter to my 67 year old mother-in-law.
Yes, George W. and Laura Bush wrote the forward, but (as another reviewer has said) that is not the point. This is unbiased history. I would have bought and enjoyed Hakim's book even if Clinton had written the forward!
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on July 19, 2004
I doubt there's any US History textbooks more excitingly written for kids age 9-12 than Joy Hakim's. (Her series is the one used in one of the best private schools in Silicon Valley.) They're glossy and beautiful, and well-nigh irresistible. What an incredible shame. What's the problem? The problem is they contain a version of history so slanted as to amount to an utterly shameless propagandizing of children. I'm a liberal atheist, but, really, her books should be sealed into a time capsule, to entertain future historians.
I assume Hakim simply doesn't know any better, but even a Marxist with a PhD in American History would blush a little to discover that a child reading this series would never suspect that close to 100 million innocent men, women, and children died under the yoke of socialist regimes, nor that a third of the world was plunged into an unnecessary grinding poverty for decades. On the other hand, they will learn, as they should, that National Socialism murdered six million innocents, and that the Ku Klux Klan `grew hugely' in the 1920s. But they won't learn that any other serious totalitarian movements also grew hugely in the 1920s, or that five million innocents died under the rule of Lenin's first experiment in socialism in the 1920s.
On the contrary, all anti-Communism in the twentieth century is presented as nothing better than a witch-hunt. Indeed, anti-communism is literally referred to as a `witch-hunt,' several times. Come on. So, was the fight against Hitler's National Socialism a `witch-hunt'? Why such a palpable double standard for twin evils? Hakim teaches children that while National Socialism was indeed a real and present danger, and even worth waging an unprecedented World War to fight it, on the other hand, international socialism, or Communism, was, as she tells it, never any real danger to Americans.
For instance, there's a chapter on the HUAC hearings in which McCarthy is referred to as a 'liar' about a half a dozen times. The chapter literally begins with the opening sentence "Joe McCarthy was a liar." Sure, he's controversial, but the latest research by historians just doesn't back up Hakim's wild-eyed account of liberal anti-socialism in America as nothing better than a nefarious `witch-hunt' conducted by `liars' and oppressors. Totalitarian Communist Lillian Hellman is profiled as a hero, and the overall impression is given that none of these people really were Communists, but, instead, were all just as falsely accused as the supposed `witches' of Salem.
This conclusion is then used to prove the statement that Americans are a fundamentally paranoid people, who basically lose their marbles very once in a while. (See book "Not Without Honor." on McCarthy and PBS documentary on Salem to find out why even Salem wasn't actually paranoia after all, but a toxic crop of moldy rye.)
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on February 18, 2003
This book is terrific. It doesn't go into great detail but it gives very interesting facts. Much easier to read than any text book that can usually be found in school.. All school districts should consider this book. I never felt very interested in History but this book has changed my mind. I will check out all the rest of her books!!
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