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*****= An all-time favorite
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****In Search of America,

by Peter Jennings and Todd Brewster

Reviewed October 15, 2002.
Hyperion, New York, 2002.  309 pages.
Available at Sembach Library (MCN 973.01 JEN).

In Search of America is an amazing book.  The authors begin with an explanation of their project:  “So here was our experiment: become reacquainted with the principles of the American founding and the men who first presented them back in the turbulent days of the eighteenth century; then go out and look about us for evidence in this America of the country they so long ago established.  If we tell you now that we discovered it—indeed, that the foundations laid back then and built upon in the 225 or so years since, still form the essence of the American identity—it should not spoil the experience of this book.”

Their search focuses on six different locations and six different American issues, with side trips in each chapter on related issues in different places.  The six issues are the separation of church and state; controlling the size of government; business and globalization of businesses; race relations; the American musical; and immigration.

Each issue is explored in great depth, looking at how the founders would have looked at such things, and how our attitudes have changed or stayed the same today.  The authors think of facets that I would have never dreamed of.

This is not light reading.  It does work well to read it slowly and meditatively, digesting a little at a time and looking at the beautiful photographs.  It’s taken me weeks to get through it, but I’ve enjoyed it.

At first, I was a bit put off by their choice of subject for the first chapter on the separation of church and state.  They chose to focus on a man who is trying to require his local schools to teach creation alongside evolution.  I thought that by focusing on a rather extreme case, they made all who believe in Creation look bad.  However, as I read on, I decided that they were picking out some extremes in order to then show the wide range and variety of opinions on a given subject.  For the most part, they kept an unbiased and journalistic approach, presenting what Americans think today without criticizing.

This book made me think about what it means to be an American, and showed me many ways in which I am proud of my country.  Truly the founding fathers’ great experiment has turned out to be a magnificent success.  And this book’s experiment is successful as well.  

Copyright © 2003 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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