By Maya-Catherine Popa, 19, reporting from New York, NY, on a riveting new book about early Americans that's no AP US History text
What's cool in the New Year? Perspective.
Sitting through AP US History can be a trying experience. After a decade of books, plays, and field trips devoted to learning about the puritans, one begins to wish our country's history had gone a little differently. And, as our prince of political change ushers us forward, Obama pillowcases will not be enough to encourage an understanding of this country's development.
Luckily for us there is the trademark wit of Sarah Vowell, whose latest book, The Wordy Shipmates, isn't your high school history textbook. Vowell explores the eccentric, feisty characters who founded the colonies from a fresh perspective—that is, by debunking the myth that the puritans were boring dressers who considered prayer the only pastime.
Puritans have pamphlet feuds. They have sex. They establish Harvard because Anne Hutchison puts the men to shame in the courtroom. They are literate, righteous, and boy have they got tempers.
Most important, we could all use a refresher course in the ideals that early American leaders, like John Winthrop, governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, relentlessly held. Remember when vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin (remember her?) insisted she and John McCain believed in "that shining city on a hill, as President Reagan so beautifully said?" Reagan, Kennedy, and countless other politicians have quoted Winthrop's speech, "A Model of Christian Charity." Only Palin seems to have missed the saying's origin. I'm tempted to send her this book. — Maya Popa