The American Revolution seems to be experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Between Hamilton on Broadway and Turn on AMC, pop culture is re-examining the eight years between the battles of Lexington and Concord and the Treaty of Paris.
As an Alaskan, I can tell you that America was invaded and occupied by Japan during World War 2. However, since Attu is a tiny island at the edge of the Aleutian chain, most Americans don’t know that. If you don’t grow up where history happened, it is possible to miss out on some pretty significant information. At least that is my excuse for not knowing who General Lafayette was or the role he played in helping America gain independence. Going into this book, I had very little knowledge of the events during the American Revolution. As such, I was the perfect audience for Vowell’s witty and charming history of Lafayette, Washington and the French support that was the deciding factor in the colonies win over the far superior British forces.
Sarah Vowell is an excellent writer. An alumni of This American Life, her approach to writing about history is tell the personal stories of the men and women involved with humor, a slight liberal bent and a lot of forgiveness for the faults of our heroes. While my favorite passage deals with General Pershing liberating Paris on July 4th, 1917, I included my second favorite below:
“While the melodrama of hucking crates of tea into Boston Harbor continues to inspire civic-minded hotheads to this day, it’s worth remembering the hordes of stoic colonial women who simply swore off tea and steeped basil leaves in boiling water to make the same point. What’s more valiant: littering from a wharf or years of doing chores and looking after children from dawn to dark without caffeine?”