Friday, July 4, 2014

Celebrating America

Today is Independence Day!!  Here in America we are awash in red, white, and blue.  We are gathering with family and friends, grilling our favorite foods, and capping the night off with spectacular displays of fireworks.  We are celebrating the essential American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And also the general a** whooping we gave the Brits!  This is honestly one of my favorite holidays in the year and I will be partying hard with my fellow citizens.

No matter how much fun you are having, there is always time for a good book.  I wanted to highlight some books that are American classics or that portray the incredible and complicated thing that is the American experience.

  • The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.  Though many would argue that the proverbial "Great American Novel" has yet to be written, this gem by one of the best known American authors could be a contender for that title.  Tom Sawyer made his debut in America's centennial year and he remains popular to this day.  Whether he is tricking other boys to paint the fence, searching for buried treasure, or showing up late to his own funereal, Tom embodies many qualities of the American spirit.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.  If Tom Sawyer is seen as a "book for boys", then Little Women is its female counterpart.  The joys, struggles, love, and loss found in the home of the March sisters are remembered by all who encounter them.  Jo March is especially memorable as she pursues her dreams of being a writer with a frankness and spirit that is inspiring and endearing.
  • Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The pioneer spirit is a large part of the fabric of the American identity.  Whether it is reaching the Pacific Ocean or landing on the moon, Americans have a tradition of pushing onward to the next achievement.  In this series, Wilder captures life as pioneer on the plains and the determination and sacrifice needed to win the West.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Just as Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe became beloved the world over for it's anti-slavery message, so Lee's novel became beloved for speaking out against racism.  It's portrayal of life in the American south resounds with readers from many different cultures and backgrounds and is taught in schools around the world.
  • Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell.  Though many disapprove of the romanticized portrayal of the antebellum south and slave culture, this remains one of the most popular books in America.  In some ways, one must read Gone With the Wind in order to understand America's relationship with the dark parts of it's past.  
  • Flower Drum Song by C. Y. Lee.  We are a nation of immigrants.  Our identity is made up of pieces from every country on the planet.  From the Mayflower to Ellis Island to the Mexican border, the immigrant experience has been one of joy, pain, struggle, and sacrifice.  In this novel, C. Y. Lee highlights the struggles of Chinese Americans in San Francisco and the struggles as the different generations grapple with what it means to be American.
What about you?  Do you have a favorite work of American literature?  Share with us!  And if you are American, how will you be celebrating today?

"Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty." - John F. Kennedy

1 comment:

hopeinbrazil said...

What a nice list for Independence Day. It reminds me I have yet to read To Kill A Mockingbird. Here in Brazil we'll be watching the World Cup game and eating Brownies and Ice Cream in honor of the 4th of July.