Most helpful positive review
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
What they didn't teach you in grade school...
on July 10, 2001
This is an excellent multi-cultural account of American history. Takaki focuses on the perspectives of many different cultural groups, providing several interesting, unique and sometimes sobering stories of America's history. After reading this book, you may find yourself feeling cheated by your grade school history lessons. This work is fair, honest, and *VERY* well documented, with endnote references on almost every page.
I don't believe Takaki has a score to settle with this book. Nor do I believe he is racist or *overly* slanted, but I can see how some might feel that way. His focus on nontraditional perspectives seems to me an effort to balance the scale a bit by emphasizing the viewpoints, stories and facts that have been under-emphasized in the past. Perspectives include those of the Irish, Japanese, blacks, Native Americans, and others as various times throughout American history. To me, Takaki does a very good job of putting the reader in the mindset of the people at a certain place and time.
Stories in this book are not sugar-coated, which may at times be unsettling, but the facts and research that back the stories up are indisputable. Takaki uses many direct quotes and indirect references to underscore his points. His accounts are credible, believable and educational. This book should be required reading in all high schools, but should not be considered a replacement for traditional American history texts. It is more a book about cultural perspectives in history than about historical facts. As an example, Takaki will devote many pages to very specific events in history to catch a specific cultural perspective, while completely glazing over many larger and arguably more historically significant timeframes.
The book is a good read, but because of several references, chapters should probably be read in order. For example, at the start of the book Takaki sets up the story of Shakespeare's Tempest as a point of comparison throughout. (It was tempting to me to skip around, since each perspective seems well encapsulated in a chapter.)
I hope you enjoy it!