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Publisher's Summary

John Brown is a lightning rod of history. Yet he is poorly understood and most commonly described in stereotypes, as a madman, martyr, or enigma. Not until Patriotic Treason has a biography or history brought him so fully to life, in scintillating prose and moving detail, making his life and legacy — and the staggering sacrifices he made for his ideals — fascinatingly relevant to today's issues of social justice and to defining the line between activism and terrorism.

Vividly re-creating the world in which Brown and his compatriots lived with a combination of scrupulous original research, new perspectives, and a sensitive historical imagination, Patriotic Treason narrates the dramatic life of the first U.S. citizen committed to absolute racial equality. Here are his friendships (Brown lived, worked, ate, and fought alongside African-Americans, in defiance of the culture around him), his family (he turned his 20 children, by two wives, into a dedicated militia), and his ideals (inspired by the Declaration of Independence and the Golden Rule, he collaborated with black leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Delany, and Harriet Tubman to overthrow slavery).

Evan Carton captures the complex, tragic, and provocative story of Brown the committed abolitionist, Brown the tender yet demanding and often absent father and husband, and Brown the radical American patriot who attacked the American state in the name of American principles. Through new research into archives, attention to overlooked family letters, and reinterpretation of documents and events, Carton essentially reveals a missing link in American history.

©2006 Evan Carton; (P)2006 Tantor Media, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"An intriguing portrait." (Booklist)
"Absorbing and inspiring." (Publishers Weekly)
"By book's end, readers will be fully persuaded that the author's provocative opening salvo...[is] true....[A] rare humanizing of an icon....Carton...truly excels at portraying the man himself. A dramatic, expertly paced biography of American history's most problematic figure." (Kirkus Reviews)

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  • Overall

A Jarring Reminder of Antebellum America

This is an excellent book for anyone interested in American history. John Brown's America comes alive with all of the attitudes to which we now find it difficult to relate: the political struggle over "slave state" vs. "free state" as the nation expands West, the Fugitive Slave Act, and the Dred Scott decision. If you're a little fuzzy on "bloody Kansas" and what that was all about, this book will make sense of it. You will come away with an appreciation for the dilemma that moral men faced in the 1850s, why John Brown made a remarkable sacrifice, and how remarkable it truly was.

Whether you have read a lot of Civil War history, or very little, this is a compelling read.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

A conflicted would-be hero

This is the second book about John Brown I've listened to; the first was Tony Horwitz's "Midnight Rising." Horwitz does a better job setting the story in its broader context, but Carton does a better job capturing the essence of Brown himself. It's a compelling and surprising listen. Whatever you think of Brown's failed guerrilla action, there was something entrancing about the man himself and his total commitment to racial equality. (Having grown up in the South myself, I feel pretty comfortable saying that there's no way the South would have ever given up slavery except at gunpoint; so Brown may have been premature or even incompetent, but he was trying to do what he knew had to be done eventually.) Either book would provide a useful introduction to the subject. I found this one more interesting and more sympathetic.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Michael
  • Bellingham, WA, United States
  • 07-30-10

Detailed Portrait

This book was a dazzling, detailed portrait of a poorly understood and interesting character of American History. Principled and unyielding, the author strives to maintain a level of commitment to honesty about his subject, highlighting stories of beating his son, being angry and unhinged, believing himself to be anointed by God to achieve a world without slavery. Carton doesn't fail, however, to let his respect for his subject shine through. A really important book, in my opinion.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Story
  • R.S.
  • Saint-Laurent, Quebec, Canada
  • 05-25-12

Learned much more than I expected

I learned much more from this title than I expected. I am interested in understanding the dynamics of anti-slavery politics that took place prior to the civil war, but I have found the topic daunting. I had read about John Brown before, with interpretations of his efforts being mostly negative, which do not explain well why he would be the subject of an anthem, or his historical stature. This biography puts John Brown in the context of his times making understandable the shortcomings and contrasts of other abolitionists, the urgency created by the fugitive slave law and the growing influence of the pro slavery politicians and jurists. This portrait explains well the reasons for the high regard he has been held, and his historic stature. The story of John Brown is one of a fascinating struggle with adversity, faith and the struggle of morality in politics when received opinion is resolutely opposed. The voice of Michael Prichard, with its special grit, provides a powerful and engaging performance.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful