Stars and Stripes

What Kind of Patriot Are You? 9 Fourth of July Books for Different Viewpoints

Are you loyalist? A feminist? No matter what type of patriot you are, there's a book for you this July 4th.

For the Feminist Patriot

Founding Mothers

By Cokie Roberts

Women suffered cruelly in the recognition they were due in the founding of the nation. If there’s any connection that we acknowledge today it is that they are only Daughters of the American Revolution, not mothers or founders. Famed news personality Cokie Roberts sought to change that with this collection of stories about the women who had substantial roles in the fight for independence, including Eliza Lucas Pinckney, who developed the cash crop indigo, and made the Revolutionary War financially viable—even ideologically possible, for the idea of independence could be founded only on the existence of an American economy. That most of the founding women Roberts wrote about were mothers (Pinckney’s son, Charles Cotesworth, was a signer of the Constitution) and wives like Martha Washington (wife of George) and Abigail Adams (wife of John, who said of Washington: “To no one Man in America belongs the Epithet Saviour”) is more of a sign of the times’ restrictions of women to do anything except be mothers and wives. A mind like Adams’s and a will like Pinckney’s would surely have happily and successfully birthed a nation.

For the Loyalist Patriot

Liberty's Exiles

By Maya Jasanoff

Perhaps you are a loyalist at heart, and thought poor King George III didn’t deserve such a bad rap. Subtitled American Loyalists in the Revolutionary World, this history chronicles the lives of those loyal to the British throne during the American Revolution. These liberty’s exiles have been written out of history, but Harvard historian Maya Jasanoff restores them to their proper place as true patriots. They were every bit as American as the revolutionaries—it’s just that they were enemies.

For the Europhile Patriot

Atlantic History

By Bernard Bailyn

Winston Churchill, whose mother was born in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, was so devoted to the idea of a cross-Atlantic union that his magnum opus as a writer was A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. The journalist Walter Lippmann first wrote about the idea of the Atlantic World in an editorial in 1917 that justified America’s involvement in World War I. Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn then transformed the field into a rigorous historical study that put into perspective America’s place in the greater world, and connected American creation and prosperity with the good (Enlightenment) and bad (slavery) of the Atlantic community. Atlantic History is a seminal summary of a powerful idea of how patriotism is really much more than simple American nationalism.

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For the 9/11 Patriot

The Brooklyn Follies: A Novel

By Paul Auster

“I was looking for a quiet place to die,” says the narrator Nathan Glass, and someone recommended Park Slope, Brooklyn. Ah, yes, there’s no mistaking this for anything other than the start of a Paul Auster novel—any Paul Auster novel: a lonely man (usually a writer) sequesters himself in an apartment (usually in Brooklyn), begins to write down the increasingly strange events around him in a hard-broiled voice (in this novel it is The Book of Human Folly), and the book he’s writing might or might not be the book you’re reading. The familiar features can harden into a convention easily mocked, yet Auster’s approach is seductive to many readers, and if only in the one startlingly powerful instant of The Brooklyn Follies. For once, the absurdity and self-pity are moving, for they chart the relative peace and hope before two planes hit the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and made us all patriots. This is still the best fiction to file a report on the days when we were all miserable and clueless—days we long to return to. “Today, we are all Americans.”

For the Irreverent Patriot

The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals

Edited by Chris Monks

Parody is the best delivery device for criticism and love. Humor is used to protect what is valued in America, from liberty to intelligence. The people at McSweeney’s give us a foreword by The Daily Show’s Wyatt Cenac, gems like Nathaniel Lozier’s “Barack Obama’s Undersold 2012 Campaign Slogans” (“We Might Be Able To,” “It Turns Out We Actually Can’t”), “My America: A New Action Movie Screenplay by Sarah Palin” by Wendy Molyneux, many musicals by The New Yorker editor Ben Greenman, and even a piece from actor Jesse Eisenberg.

For the Pacifist Patriot

The Red Badge of Courage

By Stephen Crane

Still one of the greatest psychological examinations of war in modern fiction, a novel with so much realism about the most horrendous subject of all that it might be hard for readers to finish their first encounter with it in high school. How can we be expected to display courage in a nightmarish Civil War battle? There are many examples of cowardice in the novel, and The Red Badge of Courage is really the space of ambivalence that is created when patriotic morals and unfathomable violence intersect.

For the One Perfect History of What July 4th Is About

Almost a Miracle

By John Ferling

It almost didn’t happen. An alternate history of America might include required English pilgrimages for the queen’s jubilees, kidney pudding on colonial Thanksgiving, and Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow marrying Brits. The chances were slim of a raggedy band of militiamen pioneers overcoming a well-financed army with support from homegrown loyalists. But it happened, and historian John Ferling chronicles how in a gripping epic.

For the Self-Loathing Patriot

The People’s History of the United States

By Howard Zinn

The true alternate history of America—or perhaps the true history, period. Zinn’s classic is a revolt against dead, white, male history, and expanded the shame he felt for the Vietnam betrayal to every vile moment in U.S. history, putting them center stage instead of pretending nothing bad ever happened. It also pays tribute to those heroes who fought slavery, corporate abuse, militarism, sexism, and homophobia. Love America for what it is: a country trying its best, and not a delusional nation believing it can do anything. If only more historians could be like Zinn was.

For the Ostentatious Patriot

John Philip Sousa's America: The Patriot's Life in Images and Words

By John Phillip Sousa IV and Loras John Schissel

There was a time when the march king was regarded more highly than Aaron Copland. The tunes might be used to bang the drum to, but they provide a plodding pulse for American stamina. You can say you love the U.S. Constitution all you like, but there is no better way to show your optimism and belief in the American Dream than blasting “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Bonus: For the Non-Patriot

The Patriot

Starring Mel Gibson

Or The Patriot

Starring Steven Seagal

There ought to be no sympathy for the unpatriotic. Yet, let us anticipate the argument that traitors might draw up. Would they not present as evidence “films” like these, which can only be justified as objects of intense fear and loathing?

Happy Fourth!