On this most unusual Independence Day, here are some books about an ever changing, increasingly diverse America.
In American Like Me, America Ferrera invites thirty-one of her friends, peers, and heroes to share their stories about life between cultures. We know them as actors, comedians, athletes, politicians, artists, and writers. However, they are also immigrants, children or grandchildren of immigrants, indigenous people, or people who otherwise grew up with deep and personal connections to more than one culture. Ranging from the heartfelt to the hilarious, their stories shine a light on a quintessentially American experience and will appeal to anyone with a complicated relationship to family, culture, and growing up.
Born in the Philippines and brought to the U.S. illegally as a 12-year-old, Vargas hid in plain sight for years, writing for some of the most prestigious news organizations in the country, while lying about where he came from and how he got here. After publicly admitting his undocumented status, risking his career and personal safety, Vargas has challenged the definition of what it means to be an American, and has advocated for the human rights of immigrants and migrants during the largest global movement of people in modern history. Both a letter to America and a window into Vargas’s America, this book is a transformative argument about migration and citizenship, and an intimate, searing exploration on what it means to be home when the country you call your home doesn’t consider you one of its own.
Since his election to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Ohio’s Sherrod Brown has sat on the Senate floor at a mahogany desk with a proud history. In Desk 88, he tells the story of eight of the senators who were there before him. Despite their flaws and frequent setbacks, each made a decisive contribution to the creation of a more just America. They range from Hugo Black, George McGovern, and Robert F. Kennedy to such forgotten figures as Idaho’s Glen Taylor. He also writes about Herbert Lehman of New York, Al Gore Sr. of Tennessee, Theodore Francis Green of Rhode Island, and William Proxmire of Wisconsin. Together, these eight portraits tell a story about the triumphs and failures of the progressive idea over the past century.
Nearly everyone in America came from somewhere else. This is a fundamental part of the American idea, an identity and place open to everyone. Everyone has their own unique story. Little America is a collection of those stories, told by the people who lived them. Together, they form a wholly original, at times unexpected portrait of America’s immigrants, and thereby a portrait of America itself.
Brooks’ prescriptions are unconventional. To bring America together, we shouldn’t try to agree more. There is no need for mushy moderation, because disagreement is the secret to excellence. Civility and tolerance shouldn’t be our goals, because they are hopelessly low standards. And our feelings toward our foes are irrelevant. What matters is how we choose to act. Love Your Enemies offers a clear strategy for victory for a new generation of leaders. It is a rallying cry for people hoping for a new era of American progress. Most of all, it is a road map to arrive at the happiness that comes when we choose to love one another, despite our differences.
For the last five years, James and Deborah Fallows have been traveling across America in a single-prop airplane, visiting small cities and meeting civic leaders, factory workers, recent immigrants, and young entrepreneurs, seeking to take the pulse and discern the outlook of an America that is unreported and unobserved by the national media. Our Towns is the story of their journey and their portrait of the many different faces of the American future
From “The Star-Spangled Banner” to “Born in the U.S.A.,” Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw take readers on a moving and insightful journey through eras in American history and the songs and performers that inspired us. Meacham chronicles our history, exploring the stories behind the songs, and Tim McGraw reflects on them as an artist and performer. Their perspectives combine to create a unique view of the role music has played in uniting and shaping a nation.
Our current climate of partisan fury is not new, and in The Soul of America Meacham shows us how what Abraham Lincoln called the “better angels of our nature” have repeatedly won the day. Painting surprising portraits of presidents, influential citizen activists, early suffragettes, and civil rights pioneers Meacham brings vividly to life turning points in American history. While the American story has not always been heroic, we have been sustained by a belief in progress even in the gloomiest of times. In this inspiring book, Meacham reassures us, “The good news is that we have come through such darkness before”—as, time and again, Lincoln’s better angels have found a way to prevail.
Something is wrong. We all know it. American life expectancy is declining for a third straight year. Birth rates are dropping. Nearly half of us think the other political party isn’t just wrong, they’re evil. We’re the richest country in history, but we’ve never been more pessimistic. What’s causing the despair? In Them, bestselling author and U.S. senator Ben Sasse argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, our crisis isn’t really about politics. It’s that we’re so lonely we can’t see straight and it bubbles out as anger. There’s a path forward, but reversing our decline requires something radical: a rediscovery of real places and human-to-human relationships.