Sarah Vowell Essays The Partly Cloudy Patriot

offers plenty of material on turn-of-the-millennium politics, including an account of Vowell’s trip to George W.Bush’s 2001 presidential inauguration, but the most touching pieces here are the oddball ones, such as an obituary for Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry, and a passionate defense of the Carlsbad Caverns underground lunchroom, which the National Park Service considered closing.Assassination Vacation is Vowell’s most popular book and also the most pivotal of her career; it signaled her shift from essays to full-blown historical narratives with autobiographical bits sprinkled throughout.

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She draws on books, personal interviews and archives to tell how, and why, Hawaii was annexed by the United States in 1898.

The subject is a downer, but the book’s contemplative nature and the questions it raises about the nature of America as a global power make it one of the most fascinating jewels of Vowell’s bibliography.

The book covers the American Revolutionary War through the lens of Marquis de Lafayette.

Born into a wealthy family in France, he was swept up by the Patriots’ cause and traveled to America to serve under General George Washington as a major general at age 19.

As she put it in a conversation with Seth Mnookin, “I’m always trying to get away from that textbook mentality.”If American history told with a light, smart-alecky touch sounds like your bag, here’s a suggested reading order.

(which culminated in watching it every day in college), and an essay on Vowell’s and her sister Amy’s visit to the sites involved in the Trail of Tears, the infamous forced relocation of Native Americans in the mid-1800s (Vowell is part Cherokee; 1/8 on her mother’s side and 1/16 on her father’s).

Why did you decide to write a book about the New England Puritans?

I can probably pin it down to how I kept thinking about John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” during three events between 20—the terrorist attacks, the war in Iraq, and Ronald Reagan’s funeral.

But what do you think peoplereally mean by that, and is it in any way related to our actual Puritan heritage?

Generally, Americans call ourselves a Puritan nation as a lazy way of saying that as a culture we are sexually repressed.


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