THE UNTOLD HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
For over a decade, History Craft managed historical research and created content for the documentary and book series The Untold History of the United States, which is currently available on Netflix. We also engineered a 160-page curriculum guide and project website for the series. In 2019, our principal historian Eric Singer adapted volume 2 of The Untold History of the United States for young readers, reviewed below.
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Gr 9 Up—Filmmaker [Oliver] Stone and American University history professor [Peter] Kuznick cover the Cold War with a critical perspective in this fascinating look at the years 1945–62. The tone is set immediately in the opening chapters, as the effects of the atomic bomb are explored from a variety of angles. From the devastating and lingering effects on the people of Hiroshima and Bikini Atoll to the odd mix of reactions in the United States, teens are treated to a unique narrative. Riveting and inspiring portrayals of people who took a stand are featured to highlight lesser-known aspects of the established history. For instance, a group of U.S. mothers who refused to participate in mandatory atomic bomb drills in New York City and led protests, often accompanied by their children, which helped change the conversation around civil defense initiatives. Stone and Kuznick cover a wide variety of other topics: the Korean War, unrest in Iran, and the tumultuous relationship between Cuba, the United States, and the Soviet Union.
VERDICT Detailed, ambitious, and opinionated, this engaging narrative lays out a view of U.S. history often overlooked in standard texts and deserves a place on most library shelves.—Kristy Pasquariello, Westwood Public Library, MA
May 28, 2018
Stone and Kuznick’s mordant take on this country’s history continues—here spanning the period from the beginning of the Cold War to the Cuban missile crisis.
Reworking two chapters and most of a third from the adult-directed print companion to the lead author’s 2012 documentary film, Singer creates a patchwork narrative that begins with John Hersey’s Hiroshima (1946: “the twentieth century’s most important work of journalism”) and ends with Nikita Khrushchev’s decision that “it was not worth killing hundreds of millions of people or more just to prove he was tough.” In between, the authors portray Truman as incompetent, trace Eisenhower’s passage from pacifism to unbridled militarism, and, for JFK, quote Eleanor Roosevelt’s pithy wish that he had “a little less profile and a little more courage.” Along with chronicling rising Cold War “hysteria” and the “cockamamie” schemes of Washington’s rabidly militaristic “lunatics,” they also point to the first stirrings of an anti-war movement, mock the era’s disingenuous civil defense drills, and detail some of the CIA’s various enterprises in meddling. There is much that is elided, but introductions to more than one historical moment when all-out nuclear war was just a button push away will leave readers with considerably more nuanced views of this country’s past…and present. Finished photos not seen.
Scary, sobering stuff. (timeline, source notes and lists, index) (Nonfiction. 13-16)
REVIEW: TEACHERS OF MARJORY STONEMAN DOUGLAS HIGH SCHOOL, PARKLAND, FL
Modern textbooks tend to portray history in a sterile event-based format that leaves students and adults alike craving a more genuine and human connection in a way that excites them. “The Untold History of the United States, Young Readers Edition, Vol. 2, 1945-1962” delivers just that. By using popularly known events and periods of United States history as a framework, the authors weave in thought-provoking and seldom discussed events told from the perspective of the people who lived them. The publication breathes new life into the story of the development of the United States and sheds an informative light on the circumstances of who we are a country and how we got here.
November 23, 2018
Although this history is adapted for young readers, any baby boomers who as kids experienced "duck and cover" drills at school in the '50s and the Cold War paranoia then and afterward could benefit from this history of the U.S. With vividly described details (including the tragic fate of the residents of the Bikini atoll, relocated for atomic bomb tests, and the victims poisoned and maimed in Kazakhstan when the Soviet Union started testing its own bombs) and broad historical strokes, the authors examine the consequences of the U.S. decision to drop the atom bomb on Japan and the American enthusiasm for what became a nuclear arms race, the Korean War and the U.S.' extensive use of napalm there, the U.S. use of the CIA to overthrow Mossadegh, the democratically elected leader of Iran in 1953 after he nationalized the oil industry, and Arbenz in Guatemala after he defied the United Fruit company. The politics of hawkish young John F. Kennedy and the disastrous Bay of Pigs outing are explored in detail, as is the Cuban Missile Crisis which brought the world to the brink of annihilation.
REVIEW: YOUTH SERVICES
April 6, 2019
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This historical volume is well laid out with a detailed index, table of contents, time line of events, detailed citations, and photo credits. Although it does not cover all major events in the 1945-1962 timeline, it breaks down specific events, mainly centered on war, within this time frame clearly and with enough photos and citations that the reader can easily get information on these subjects. Engagingly written to draw in even reluctant readers, this book is packed with information that will impress, while using historic details that may not be known to most readers. This title is easily read from cover to cover or by chapter, as the reader wishes. It is very easy to use as a research aid. I had trouble putting it down.
Anything you didn’t like about it? I could image a young reader may be overwhelmed with the suggestion that, as a planet, we are lucky that we did not annihilate all the human population multiple times over during this time in history.
To whom would you recommend this book? Readers in grades 6 and up who want to learn about this span in history or WW2 enthusiasts would enjoy this book; teachers who have units on this era in history and/or have units focusing on war.
Who should buy this book? This would be an excellent purchase for school or public libraries, especially if their U.S. history section needs updating. High School history teachers would benefit from this addition to textbooks on the era.
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction, United States History
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? I feel that this title would definitely reside on the top of a “to read” pile.
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Elena Schuck, Mattacheese Middle School Library, West Yarmouth, Massachusetts
Date of review: April 6, 2019