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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very valuable and interesting book
For all the shrill complaints, you'll notice no one points out any errors in this book. Indeed, most of the factual history in the book is solid and not even seriously debated by historians. For example - numerous memorials notwithstanding - all serious historians agree that the Confederates, not the Union, burned Richmond and many other Southern cities as they abandoned...
Published on October 10, 2009 by EJon

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars LIES OF OMISSION IS A MORE ACCURATE TITLE
I found this book to be a little disappointing. Perhaps it's my fault for misinterpreting the subject matter. I had assumed it dealt with information that was undeniably wrong or untrue. Presenting things inaccurate in fact rather than too concise or limited in scope.

The majority of the entries are not so much out and out "lies" as they are lies of omission...
Published on February 2, 2012 by Devil_Monkey


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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very valuable and interesting book, October 10, 2009
For all the shrill complaints, you'll notice no one points out any errors in this book. Indeed, most of the factual history in the book is solid and not even seriously debated by historians. For example - numerous memorials notwithstanding - all serious historians agree that the Confederates, not the Union, burned Richmond and many other Southern cities as they abandoned them. I learned a lot from this book, and I haven't found any serious problems with his facts for for the items I've looked into - although I don't think *everyone* would agree that President Buchanan was gay.

Like his earlier book, one of his central points is that accurate and complete history - with all its controversy and complexity - is simply more interesting than the sanitized (and sometimes just plain wrong) version we get in school or from historical monuments. I strongly agree, but some people are very uncomfortable with this view, as is clear from the other comments. He doesn't say our Founding Fathers were "despicable", merely that they were human beings with human flaws - some of them large. For example, he has a lot of good things to say about Thomas Jefferson, but it's a pretty serious omission to sweep the fact that he owned slaves under the rug. If you want to hear only good things about our major historical figures, do yourself a favor and *do not read this book*.

He does have a serious axe to grind with the South, but remember he's competing with books like "Slavery: as it was", which is still trying to paint an idyllic picture of black simpletons who really preferred being slaves (read some of the glowing reviews *that* book gets). We would probably complain if Germany still had monuments to Nazis, yet the South has many monuments vicious and outspoken racists.

That said, the book does have a few flaws. First of all, he really beats some things to death. For example, he objects to the use of the term "discover" for anyplace where Indians were already living. Fair enough, but he devotes quite a bit of the book to going through these on a case by case basis, and it just gets repetitive. I would have been happy for him to have simply made his case and then given a short list of examples.

Second, like his first book, he does interject a bit too much of his personal politics. Usually, this is in the form of explaining how certain monuments came to be, but sometimes it's about monuments that aren't necessarily inaccurate, but just "incomplete" in his view. While I don't think his views are necessarily wrong, these observations give the book a biased tone that it doesn't need to have. The book would still have plenty to say if it stuck strictly to facts and avoided analysis.

So, definitely read the book. Check the facts yourself if you don't believe them, and take the politics with a grain of salt.
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193 of 216 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great fun -- and look who it rattled..., August 28, 2000
By 
I. Westray (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
If you have any doubts about the lightning rod James Loewen has given us in this book and its predecessor, "Lies My Teacher Told Me," take a look at the few low ratings given by other Amazon readers. The code words are all there -- he's an ivory tower academic, he's anti-confederate, it's all "political correctness," he's racist because he's "anti-white," and so on. Cages have been rattled, it's as simple as that. Some cherished myths go down hard in these books.
Anyone who dismisses this as a "doctoral dissertation" from someone in an "ivory tower" hasn't read any dissertations, trust me. These are funny, chatty, entertaining books. (This one in particular is a great browse, because it's broken cleanly into sections about individual monuments.) Loewen's voice is perfect for this tone and subject, not in any way affected or studied; he's a likeable author, and these are enjoyable books.
Loewen's overarching theme is that history would be a much more vital, constructive force in American life if Americans were actually exposed to its true breadth and depth. Loewen makes many impassioned appeals to primary sources, to the voices and sentiments of actual participants. He gets at those basic themes in a nicely straightforward, common-sensical way -- by comparing primary sources to the schlock we're given in their place. For my money, the humor and pathos, the melancholy irony, in that comparison is a breath of fresh air. Lies My Teacher Told Me used a comparison of several high school textbooks as its departure point. Here Loewen begins by examining historical markers, asking whether each does an adequate job of describing the history it's meant to include. He compares the words on stone monuments to the words in, say, confederate generals' mouths. Dusty academic argument this ain't. It's just plain fun. (I mean, what are we to make of monuments to confederate dead in Montana? Montana didn't have any soldiers on either side...)
To the criticism that Loewen hasn't been prescriptive enough, that he doesn't say what each monument SHOULD include, I would say -- Gee, um, he does. If you read the essays, Loewen goes into extensive discussions about what's missing in many museums and inscriptions. The Nimitz Museum (Museum of the Pacific War) should include, for example, specific quotes from Nimitz about the prospect of invading Japan -- and in any case it shouldn't depict Nimitz as taking a position diametrically opposite from his real one. Also, both this book and Lies My Teacher Told Me have been both general histories and wonderfully ironic lessons in how pressures conspire to prevent real history from reaching people. Dissecting the workings of those whitewashing forces is at least as worthwhile as rewriting the actual texts. Loewen does do both jobs, though, anyway.
But hey, don't believe me -- watch the people who want their ... history left alone squirm, and you'll know you should be in on the fun.
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119 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Impressively Accurate History Text, October 14, 2000
After reading some of the reviews here, I was a bit concerned that perhaps Mr. Loewen might have skewed his history a bit to help make his admittedly entertaining points. While the book's essays are copiously footnoted, and each essay contains its own bibliography (often running to half a dozen or more citations even for a small three or four page essay), some of the criticisms of Mr. Loewen's work still gave me pause. Since I am merely a casual student of history, I decided to take my questions to the most knowledgeable authority I knew: a history teacher friend whose favorite pastime seems to be finding the subtle historical distortions in otherwise excellent historical and historical-fiction movies like "Gettysburg" and "Saving Private Ryan".
After I had read him perhaps two dozen of the ninety-five essays in this book, my friend had no significant criticisms: Loewen correctly identifies not only those areas where there is a difference of opinion among historians, but also where there is agreement among historians that differs with the popular imagination. Loewen also identifies the actual history behind each monument, both the history of the event commemorated and the history of the monument itself where appropriate. He distinguishes between markers which merely attempt to cloud the truth (essay 13, for example), those which blatantly contradict the truth (essay 62), and those which have no relationship to the truth but have instead been invented of whole cloth (essay 15). The book is an impressive piece of historical detective-work, even more so when one considers that the history involved covers nearly the whole of the United States.
In the end, my friend enjoyed my 'preview' of Loewen's book enough so that he went out and purchased the hardcover. I already had. The book really is that good.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's fun, but..., August 3, 2010
By 
Arthur Digbee (Indianapolis, IN, USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
There are a lot of strange markers in this country, including one that commemorates an Indian "massacre" of a wagon train that never occurred. In "Lies Across America," James Loewen tells us the story of dozens of these, organized by region and state. The book is also framed with five essays on various topics related to historical sites and markers.

The five essays are nothing special. "The sociology of historic sites" delves into the reasons why some topics are better represented than others, but you can probably figure that out for yourself. "Historic sites are always a tale of two eras" also discusses an issue that you can figure out from the title.

In contrast, the stories of historical markers make for fun reading. They whitewash so much history, exclude so much more, and tell such biased stories that you can only laugh. Of course, these errant markers triumphalize elites and downplay the stories of historically-disadvantaged groups (who might not think them quite so funny). Some of these markers are slated for replacement with more appropriate memorials and texts, and one can only hope that this happens quickly.

Unfortunately, reading about one outrageous historical site after another can get to be pretty tedious. It's a pretty long book, and I found that there was only so much I could take at once.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There She Is, Myth America..., August 15, 2001
By 
Bruce Crocker "agnostictrickster" (Whittier, California United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Let me preface this by telling you that I think that the scientific method can be used to do good history; I read Skeptic Magazine; I think that Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond and Born To Rebel by Frank J. Sulloway are two of the best pieces of history writing done in recent years. I want to know what REALLY happened in the past. Lies Across America by James W. Loewen helps to teach us history as it was, not how we'd like it to be.
If you're like me, then you've seen a lot of roadside plaques in your life. If you're like me, you've probably wondered how much of a plaque says what happened and how much of the plaque interprets what happened in light of a particular point of view. Reading Lies Across America will help you tease the facts from the interpretations. The book is organized by region and Loewen includes write-ups on a wide variety of monuments and plaques from each region. Each vignette about each place can be read independently from the others, so the book does not have to be read straight through or in order. I enjoyed Mr. Loewen's write-ups immensely.
We live in a world where extreme afrocentrists want to turn the ancient Egyptians into black Africans and turn them into victims of all those dead white Greek guys who stole their best ideas. We live in a world where holocaust revisionists want to erase the memory of one of the greatest acts of ethnic cleansing in the 20th-century. We live in a world where young Earth creationists want to erase almost all of the 4.5 billion years of earth history. And we live in a world where folks want to abandon Thomas Jefferson as a hero because he had a relationship with one of his slaves after his wife died. History is what happened in the past and it isn't always pretty; history didn't always happen the way we might want it to happen. We shouldn't be embarrassed by the fact that James Buchanan was probably gay, we should be embarrassed by the fact that if you ask a tour guide about that fact at his house, you'll probably get an evasive answer. And personally I wish that the first gay president had been a better president, but that isn't the way it happened.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding scholarship, August 7, 2000
This was an AMAZING book. It gives markers and monuments real faces: that is, the faces of the men, women, and organizations who organize and fund said sites and markers to make sure their version of "history" remains on the landscape. Especially telling are the voluminous markers to the Confederacy, continually romanticizing and ultimately misrepresenting its true origin and purpose, as well as those monuments to whites' "discovery" and "civilization" of the "new" world at the expense and near extermination of the native american indian. If this book doesn't debunk or expose at least three erroneous ideas about history you've always held as truth, then you're probably a history professor, and a damn good one. Loewen points out that the past is always more complex than is often represented. As he illustrates, the telling of history is often done by the powerful, the wealthy, the victorious. Loewen argues that to know where we're headed, we need a clear and un-edited understanding of our past. It is this examination of the past, he argues, that our democracy must be able to withstand, and which will ultimately make it stronger. A thought-provoking and immensely entertaining book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars LIES OF OMISSION IS A MORE ACCURATE TITLE, February 2, 2012
This review is from: Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong (Paperback)
I found this book to be a little disappointing. Perhaps it's my fault for misinterpreting the subject matter. I had assumed it dealt with information that was undeniably wrong or untrue. Presenting things inaccurate in fact rather than too concise or limited in scope.

The majority of the entries are not so much out and out "lies" as they are lies of omission or representative of events the author feels are insufficiently recognized. An example of the latter would be the "lie" of a marker that mentions a place where a woman was lynched for the crime of killing a man. Although the woman is misrepresented as having been white when she was actually Spanish the author feels the bigger "lie" is that it bothers to mention the woman at all while many other lynchings (throughout the history of the country not as part of the same incident) involving men as victims are not commemorated at all.

There are representations of factual inaccuracies but most entries are "lies" only to the extent that they don't tell a complete version of the story. Not so much lies as edited (sanitized) versions. Maybe I'm being too optimistic or charitable to the average American's intelligence but I believe many of them are fairly obvious in their limitations and don't necessarily require someone pointing out that they tell only one side of a story.

Initially I found the writing to be dry and somewhat hard to connect with but as I got deeper into the book that became less of an issue. Either I became more accustomed to the author's style, or more engrossed in the subject matter. Or, quite possibly, I went in with some bias and resentment from the fact that I felt (and still do) the book had been misrepresented thus my first impression was simply wrong.

As far as the overly politically correct attitude, apologist or anti-white overtones that others have referenced... one could definitely interpret it that way. It has more to do with the underlying theme of presenting a larger picture that represents the entire story in my opinion. Although there are points where it certainly felt to me as though the author was beating me over the head with his personal ideology (even though I agree with most of it). I also found the semantics over what constitutes "discovery", "wilderness" and "civilization" to be condescending, and overly simplistic.

Some of the stronger -- and more interesting in my opinion -- passages in the book are actually related to the origins of the monuments themselves and the bias of those sponsoring them. Particularly the ones that relate to the various Confederate memorials throughout the country. Once I got around the 'beating a dead horse' aspect of repeating much of the same comments on racial injustices, prejudices, etc. that had been previously stated elsewhere in the book I found them to be highly informative as to the general attitudes of the people and times in which they were created.

All in all it's not a bad book. Is it heavy handed? Oh, yes, very much so in some parts. Is it informative? Absolutely.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars history without the touch-ups, October 21, 2001
By 
A fascinating review of the less-than-savory aspects of American history, as inspired by the fallacious, misleading, and amnesiac monuments and "historical" markers that populate the landscape from sea to shining sea. Much more than just a look at historical errors, the book is a scathing and unrelenting expose of the pernicious mythologies perpetuated in the name of history, as a subtle (and sometimes overt) means by which our collective memory is subverted and manipulated. Loewen is at heart an idealist, who sees things as they could be, and asks "why not?", an outlook that has gotten others in hot water before. His thesis seems to be that to benefit from history, we must first learn history, embrace it, and teach it, in all it's blemished and tarnished glory. As long as we continue to allow history to be distorted, revised, and altered to suit the propagandist needs of political ideologies, we build our world viewpoint on shifting sands of myth and fantasy, for which we and our future generations will pay a hefty price. Written with wit and, at times, biting sarcasm, Loewen's book is an enjoyable and yet disturbing guidebook to American Memory Lane, a journey that, without the doses of reality his book provides, might at times resemble more a confusing ride through the hall of mirrors. A book well worth reading, digesting, and discussing, I was sorry when it ended.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear and to the point, July 27, 2001
By A Customer
I learned more American History from this book than in all my years at school. It came off clearly and well researched and the points it made are important ones. We like to blame other nations for revisionist history, but reading this book makes me realize that we have a lot to learn as well. A must read for anyone interested in history or in the exposure of propoganda
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More interesting than school history class!, November 1, 2009
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Excellent book which gives a different perspective on history, and a more interesting one, in my opinion. Most of us who are not history majors retain only what we were taught earliest, which means all that dumbed-down, glossed-over, boring stuff from elementary or middle school. This is an entertaining read, whether you are a history major, or not.
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Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong
Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites Get Wrong by James W. Loewen (Paperback - November 14, 2000)
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