Historian Howard Zinn demonstrated that there are compelling, alternative histories that are both scholarly and valuable. Now, Thaddeus Russell provides a challenging new way of reading history that will turn convention on its head and is sure to elicit as much controversy as it does support.
Russell shows that drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution. Slaves worked less and had more fun than free men. Prostitutes, not feminists, won women's liberation. White people lost their rhythm when they became good Americans. Without organized crime, we might not have Hollywood, Las Vegas, labor unions, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights. Zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not Ronald Reagan or the peace movement, brought down the Soviet Union. And Britney Spears will win the war on terror.
It was not the elitists who created real revolution in America nor the political radicals whom Zinn credits, but the people on the fringes of society who laid the foundation for change and were responsible for many of the freedoms we cherish today. American history was driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires---the "respectable" versus the "degenerate", the moral versus the immoral, "good citizens" versus the "bad". The more that "bad" people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was our common good.
In A Renegade History of the United States, Russell introduces us to the origins of our nation's identity as we have never known them before.
©2010 Thaddeus Russel (P)2010 Tantor
"This is a fun read that makes a serious point. Even drunkards, whores, black pleasure-seekers, gangsters, and drag queens have contributed to American culture, and sometimes in surprising ways." (W. J. Rorabaugh, professor of history, University of Washington, and author of The Alcoholic Republic)
I love the books that are filled with a bits of trivia, and I learned quite a bit listening to this book. Yet, just me personally, I listen to this in small bursts. It is one of those books, not sure if is better used as coffee table reference. There are constant tidbits of info without much of a central theme or narrative means too much at once. Like drinking a slurpee too fast after a job---brain freeze!
Love the book and the tidbits, though, and narrator is fun to listen to as well.
This book gives an account of American history from a different view than what we are taught in public schools. I've always been a fan of Howard Zinn's Peoples History, but Russell presents it from yet another angle. Loved it.
The author's perspective on history is based on a simple formula: what's most shocking? Not, what fits the flow of history in an intelligent way. He fails to connect shocking moments in history to the broader claims he makes.
I like to read but listening is better.
In general, I liked this book. It's obvious that Russell has a claim or argument in mind and then seeks to validate the claim by finding evidence that supports his argument while ignoring anything that doesn't. That being said, he makes some very strong arguments. Some are stronger than others. Take it all with a grain of salt. But he does present some facts that are simply inarguable and so there is plenty to learn from the book.
I'm a little surprised that I haven't heard more of an uproar about this book. Perhaps it's because the author isn't well known? I don't know. Russell has fewer than 1,500 followers on Twitter. Now, I realize that number of Twitter followers is of course not in any way proof of the validity of an author's argument. But if you're judging how well known a young author is, it's pretty telling. So back to the original point, perhaps the reason that you can't easily find passionate responses to Russell's arguments is that there just aren't enough people who've heard about it.
Still, I can't for the life of me figure out why he chose to make his "slavery wasn't that bad in the 1800's" argument in chapter 2. I mean at least 10 to 15 percent of the people that picked up this book had to have put it down forever at some point during the 2nd chapter.
Overall I thought the book was good, thus the 4-star rating. I found myself wanting to hear more when it was over, and that's always a great sign. But the overall story was just so-so. I'm not a big fan of books that are made up of a bunch of different small arguments or studies. I like to hear a running narrative on a broad subject.
And there were times when the repetition got a bit boring. Whenever you're listening to or reading a book where the author's main goal is to prove a theory or theories, you know there are going to be times when you get tired of it.
As for the narrator, Paul Boehmer is not my favorite. Boehmer isn't awful but he does take away some of the enjoyment for me. I had to listen to it on double speed to make his voice less of a bother. But that wasn't bad because the repetitive style of the book made some parts tough to get through as it was.
I had a lot of fun with the original concept of true freedom being lazy, indolent and selfish. That rights we enjoy today were established by drunkards, libertines and laggards is , I admit, something that never occurred to me. Russel makes a good case for how the founding fathers were really about creating a nanny state, how prohibition created Jazz, how the New Deal had common origins with European fascism. I guess he gets points for consistency by making his case that slaves had more fun than citizens in pre civil war America, but that's where he lost me.
This is one of the few times I wish I had read the print version, so I could read the source notes. Worse, the reader decided to take the liberty of using blackface ebonics when reading the slave narratives, bad choice, dude. Rusell states right off the bat that, left unchecked, renegades will destroy any civilization they live in. The same can be said of a history lessen that uses libertarian self interest as it's prime mover to explain itself.
How can you go wrong with this one? Juicy and chalk full of crime, laziness and utter licentiousness, this book is a dream come true to history buffs who are also unprincipled slackers. That's not to say that it's not serious work, though. The research is solid and the facts are well presented. This is actual scholarship, not hacky journalism. Narrator Paul Boehmer's accent, intonation and rhythm are quite odd to me, and bug me sometimes, but he is chosen to read a lot of the best books, so I guess I'm stuck with him. You should really buy this book. It kicks ass.
Yes, the characters come alive when heard audibly.
A Renegade History of the Untied States - Our History as Told by Outcasts of Society
Great book and provides a unique perceptive on our history
My preference for a good story is something totally unusual and not run of the mill stuff. Give me something I haven't heard before.
WOW, this is the back alley of history in the US. You'll learn things in here that nobody would dare teach in a classroom. This is tabloid type history lesson where nothing is held back. This is the greasy sh*t you want to know about and not the whitewashed facade we got in school.
I did like the content of the book. It really helps fill in the blanks in American History. The detail is fabulous and the research was obviously well done. The narration was really dry and delivered in a monosyllabic drone that made this audio book impossible to finish. Would not recommend.
This is the kind of styles I like: good pace, cerebral, well-documented, meaty, mind-bending.
In my opinion, a good history book for the general public begins with deep research about a topic that no one really examined before and then an art to bring it to life. A renegade history begins exactly with this premise: among the citizens of the US, probably a good portion were criminals, low-life, outlaws that lived, worked, stealed and, ultimately, had a great influence on the direction the country takes. Yet, history tends to systematically focus on the grander figures and the great moments, just leaving aside all of this.
While the topic is rich, I found myself getting completely disinterested from the book very quickly. The problem is not that the author did not do research (research has been extensive) and not that he does not bring life to the telling (he does), but rather than there seems to be very little to say after all, beyond what one would imagine or already know. Yes, there was certainly a lot of prostitution and debauchery; yes, alcohol was always a recurrent problem; yes, slaves would often mix with the common man in lower-class taverns; yes, some of the disturbances against the british did originate from drunken brawls. But, did we really think otherwise? The book does place some historical precision into these things but, if you are curious, will not teach a lot that is new.
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