A Most Imperfect Union

A Most Imperfect Union : A Contrarian History of the United States

3.16 (133 ratings by Goodreads)
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A New York Times Best SellerEnough with the dead white men! Forget what you learned in school! Ever since Columbus,who was probably a converted Jew, discovered" the New World, the powerful and privileged have usurped American history. The true story of the United States lies not with the founding fathers or robber barons, but with the country's most overlooked and marginalized peoples: the workers, immigrants, housewives, and slaves who built America from the ground up and made this country what it is today.In A Most Imperfect Union , cultural critic Ilan Stavans and award-winning cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz present a vibrant alternative history of America, giving full voice to the country's unsung but exceptional people. From African royals to accused witches, from Puerto Rican radicals to Arab immigrants, Stavans and Alcaraz use sardonic humour and irreverent illustrations to introduce some of the most fascinating characters in American history,and to recount travesties and triumphs that mainstream accounts all too often ignore. What emerges is a colourful group portrait of these United States, one that champions America's progress while also acknowledging its missteps.Sweeping and cinematic, stretching from the nation's prehistory to the post-9/11 era, A Most Imperfect Union is a joyous, outrageous celebration of the complex, sometimes unruly individuals and forces that have shaped our ever-changing land.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 194 x 241 x 22.86mm | 739.36g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0465036694
  • 9780465036691
  • 1,816,128

Review quote

A New York Times Best Seller A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice "A witty alternative history of the United States... The overall effect is more evocative of a grand political cartoon than a comic book... A Most Imperfect Union is not a comprehensive history of the United States, it's the perspective of two 'hyphenated Americans.' But it's a lens we're all free to use--the new arrivals as well as those born here, hoping to see their country through fresh eyes." --New York Times Book Review "A Most Imperfect Union is at its best when telling those tales of the dispossessed... These profiles are painted with compelling humanity... Imperfect Union is truest to its own stated cartoon conquest when it plumbs lesser-known stories -- and actually lives up to its battle cry of saying 'Enough!' of focusing solely on those great dead white men." --Washington Post "A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History Of The United States isn't just hilarious; it's also important." --NPR's AltLatino "The smart commentary and the raw, unpolished caricatures take a torch to the facts you learned in your tattered public school history books, reinterpret the quotes you find on greeting cards in Whole Foods, and expose the faces you recognize from your small collection of dollar bills." --DigBoston "Stavans is an engaging writer, and what he most brings to the narrative is a professorial sense of story and anecdote. But by opening with the cheeky jacket-flap salvo 'Enough with the dead white men!,' what Imperfect Union aims to do, too, is win you over with humor. That's where Alcaraz so often comes in... Alcaraz...blends the cartoon realism of historic figures with a loose-and-goofy style for his contemporary characters -- which at times helps this feel like a 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' dynamic applied to the panorama of American history." --Washington Post, Comic Riffs "Alcaraz' bold and brash black-and-white cartoons are hyperbolic while informative, and the full package should give students of history pause, particularly as they consider critical questions regarding well-established "facts" of history. Edgy, informative, and visually engaging, this would be a good fit for visual learners and iconoclasts." --Booklist "Stavans and Alcaraz offer an opposing view to the sanitized history most of us were taught in elementary school classrooms...Alcaraz's amusing pen-and-ink style ably captures most of the book's famous subjects." --Kirkus Reviews "This imaginative portrayal of 'a most imperfect union' is contrarian, as presented, and also thought-provoking, as intended." --Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor (Emeritus), Massachusetts Institute of Technology "In A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States, Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz strip away the pen-and-inks of popular history in an extended comic strip that presents the highs and lows, ins and outs, established and too easily missed truths of our American story. With wit, irony and a snappy parade of different perspectives, the book allows us to poke fun at ourselves even as we grapple with the deeper implications of our culture of 'creative destruction.'" --Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University "Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz make a dynamic duo: spirited, energetic, sardonic and irreverent. History is, after all, a story, and they are bravura storytellers, in words and pictures. They take issue, not only with the official story, but also with each other, demonstrating that the most essential element in the teaching of history--and the practice of democracy--is critical thought." --Martin Espada, author of The Trouble Ball "A truly ambitious, witty, and often dazzling portrait of how a great nation was forged. The Mayflower was nice, but the sweat and ingenuity of the entire globe went into creating our nation. Stavans and Alcaraz's book gives these lesser-known protagonists the honor they are due." --Gary Shteyngart, author of Little Failure: A Memoir "A terrific book by the perfect union of Stavans and Alcaraz. I couldn't put it down, but luckily history only goes so far." --Jaime Hernandez, cartoonist, Love and Rockets "A Most Imperfect Union is the perfect antidote to the canned Hollywood version of American history. Morally sound on the important stuff but irreverently face-smacking too, the book holds up a mirror to America--warts and all, great but flawed. In words and pictures, Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz have given us something to laugh with, to blanch at, and to learn from." --Jon Lee Anderson, author of Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life "Well then, by God, we have a history here that's not the usual one--that is, the mainstream, blue-eyed history we're usually force-fed. A Most Imperfect Union provides a sobering look at (if not a sometimes absolutely gut-busting, humorous portrayal of) American history. This book is great and should be carried in the back pocket of every school kid--not the in the backpack but in the pocket, where it can be retrieved on impulse and read and reread for joy, pleasure, and accurate information about how we came to be who we are in this country: gracious and generous, yet selfish and mean-spirited; awesomely truthful and helpful and neighborly, yet sometimes meagerly erecting borders and fences where none should exist. Alas, something to really enjoy." --Jimmy Santiago Baca, poet, and author of Singing at the Gates "It's often said--half jokingly--that every country has an unpredictable past. Our histories are unique and the stories we tell about them are often contradictory. Lalo Alcaraz's dynamic, funny images and Ilan Stavans's clever commentaries offer a fresh, adventurous way of viewing the 'uncertain' past of this amazing American nation." --Paquito D'Rivera, multiple Grammy Award--winning musician and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master "Media mestizaje at its finest. Alcaraz and Stavans present a tribute to America full of the binaries that make our country great: angry and loving, lyrical and scabrous, academic and street-smart. If you don't buy this book, you don't know modern-day America." --Gustavo Arellano, !Ask a Mexican! syndicated columnist "True patriotism consists in wanting to make your country better, not in pretending that it is already perfect. In A Most Imperfect Union, Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz provide a warts-and-all take on U.S history--witty and pithy, creative and critical, subversive and constructive. By scanning the country's virtues and vices in a single sweep, they will make readers' love for America better informed; the book may also help to inspire young Americans to sustain the project of making the U.S. a model country in an increasingly plural hemisphere, an increasingly complex world, and an increasingly cynical age." --Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, author of Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States "This dynamic duo has done it again. Wordsmith extraordinaire Stavans and virtuoso visual artist Alcaraz reveal the blind spots in our country's magisterial epic and open our eyes to the nation's real grand story, describing it less as a uniform and progressive history than as a 'symphony of creative destruction.' This merciless, witty, and deeply learned book will arm us and our children with the know-how to create a better tomorrow." --Frederick Luis Aldama, Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor of English, Ohio State University, and author of The Routledge Concise History of Latino/a Literature
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About Ilan Stavans

Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.Lalo Alcaraz is a faculty member at Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, and the creator of the nationally syndicated comic strip, La Cucaracha." He lives in Whittier, California.
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Rating details

133 ratings
3.16 out of 5 stars
5 13% (17)
4 25% (33)
3 35% (47)
2 20% (26)
1 8% (10)
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