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Myth America summary

Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer

Historians Take on the Biggest Legends and Lies about Our Past

2.9 (118 ratings)
19 mins

Brief summary

Myth America by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer explores the ways in which myths about American exceptionalism have been created and perpetuated by political leaders and the media, ultimately distorting our understanding of history and hindering progress.

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    Myth America
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    The story of America is intertwined with myths and alternate narratives.

    Which stories truly tell the American story?

    Every nation has a narrative, a bold and stirring tale of creation and recreation. The American story is a special one because of the nation’s influence around the world and its role as standard-bearer of democracy.

    But as a growingly fractured country with a narrative that has increasingly become hijacked by the political right, it’s become harder to separate fact from fiction. There are more ways to communicate than ever, but in this new reality, it seems anyone can claim to be an expert – just look at the nonhistorians raging about “revisionist history” that highlights the undeniable facts of slavery and subsequent systemic racism.

    Consider the arrival of the Europeans. Their whole journey is underpinned by legends of destiny, mirroring stories from the Bible of special people who are owed a land by sacred decree. This drove not only their arrival but relentless expansion. All collateral damage in this march to create America was excused by the notion of “American exceptionalism.” Newt Gingrich made this a weapon for the right during his 1994 election stump speeches and crystallized for many the idea of America as an ideal, a notion that is echoed in its spirit by Trump’s “Make America Great” slogans.

    These origin stories leave out one convenient fact though: you can’t discover a continent that was already occupied and had been for millennia by its own people. But you can try and deny it, as Rick Santorum did during a 2021 speech for the Young America’s Foundation when he said the Europeans found in America a “blank state” with “nothing here.” This myth of the vanishing Indian has been perpetuated and echoed in tropes throughout the past three centuries, lending support to the idea that the time had come for native civilization to make way for a superior European one. Such claims were backed by pseudoscientists like Josiah Nott, an Alabama physician who stated that the Native Americans were a separate race incapable of change and destined to eventually die out.

    These creation myths work to set the stage for false alternative narratives that can be easily used as a tool to discriminate and suppress others – especially when it benefits those spreading them.

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    What is Myth America about?

    Myth America (2022) is a collection of essays that examine and dismantle some of the most pervasive myths about America: how it was founded, who’s allowed to be here, and how we define a ‘real’ American or American family.

    Myth America Review

    Myth America is a thought-provoking book that sheds light on the myths and realities of American history. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a deep analysis of the historical narratives that shape our understanding of America, challenging popular myths and providing a more nuanced perspective.
    • By examining the political, social, and cultural forces at play, the book provides a comprehensive understanding of how these myths have influenced American society.
    • With its rigorous research and insightful arguments, the book provides a captivating exploration of American history that is both enlightening and thought-provoking.

    Who should read Myth America?

    • History buffs
    • Students of American politics
    • Activists and social justice warriors

    About the Author

    Kevin M. Kruze is a historian, Princeton University professor, and author. His books include White Flight and One Nation Under God.

    Julian E. Zelizer is also a Princeton professor, CNN political analyst, and best-selling author. He’s written 24 books on US political history including The Fierce Urgency of Now, Governing America, and Burning Down the House

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    Myth America FAQs 

    What is the main message of Myth America?

    The main message of Myth America is to challenge the traditional narratives of American history and explore the myths that shape our understanding of the nation.

    How long does it take to read Myth America?

    The reading time for Myth America varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is Myth America a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Myth America is a thought-provoking and eye-opening read. It examines the myths surrounding American history, providing valuable insights and encouraging critical thinking.

    Who is the author of Myth America?

    Myth America is co-authored by Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer.