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A Young People's History of the United…
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A Young People's History of the United States: Columbus to the War on… (2007)

by Howard Zinn

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Best selling historian Howard Zinn has taken his seminal "A People's History of the United States" and adapted it for a slightly younger audience. As soon as I saw this book at Barnes and Noble, I knew I wanted to read it for my nonfiction class. I was first introduced to "A People' History" as an undergrad, when my professor gave us the first chapter to read for class. After reading the first chapter, I was hooked, and bought the most recent edition the next time I was at the bookstore. The original version is a masterpiece in American history, told from the point of view of those largely left out of traditional history texts- Columbus' arrival is told from the point of view of the natives of Hispaniola, while later chapters are told from the point of view of slaves, union workers, and women. I was greatly influenced by my original reading of "A People's History," so I was excited by the idea that younger students would be able to access Zinn's work for themselves. "A Young People's History" is an excellent book for middle school children, although I think that teachers would likely have to pick certain sections to use as a supplement to the assigned text. Even though "A Young People's History" is much condensed from the original, at 426 pages, it's still rather hefty. For my purposes as a future high school teacher, I would stick with the original version, rather than the "Young People's History," but even then, I'd still have to select certain chapters to use.

I did have one slight issue with "A Young People's History," and that was the lack of source notes or bibliography. Most of the books we read in class this semester offered the reader some sort of guide as to where the author got his or her information. There are slight selections in the text where Zinn gives citations for a a page or two of supplemental information, but the book as a whole has no source notes or end notes, no bibliography, and no suggestions for further reading. I was somewhat bothered by this, as it was one of our main criteria for assessing a book in class, but the more I thought about it, the less worried I became. Typically, sources are cited when they have provided the author new information, or at least I was taught that there was no reason to cite something you already knew, or something that was considered common knowledge. Howard Zinn has a Ph.D. in history, and I think that the information he presents would be considered common knowledge for his level of education. Thus if it is information he already knew, would he need to cite it? I'm not quite sure, but the lack of source notes would not keep me from using this book, if I were to teach middle school. As I said, I would use the original adult version in high school classes, and that version has a twenty page bibliography, so I wouldn't have the same concerns.

The only other problem I could foresee in using "A Young People's History" would potentially be with what some may see as a political slant. There are those who find Zinn's work to be left-leaning, even socialist at times. I think this is an unnecessary concern, as he is just presenting facts (and in the adult version, gives the sources of those facts), but I know that some people may read more into it. Also, I think that any possible political leaning in the original "People's History" is less obvious in the "Young People's History," so I really would not anticipate any real complaints.

Overall, I find this "Young People's History" to be a great introduction to American history for younger students; the book does provide a glossary for unfamiliar terms, as well as a user-friendly index to make connections, so while did take away some points for the lack of source notes (even though I wasn't personally bothered by it), I gave back some points for these features.

I was also pleased to find out about the "Zinn Education Project," which is an online set of resources aimed at helping teachers use the original "People's History" in middle school and high school classrooms. They have lists of other "people's pedagogy" resources, as well as lesson plans to go along with Zinn's work. ( )
  Mols1 | May 5, 2013 |
This text offers a critical look at American history. While it is important to offer students material from every perspective, Howard Zinn's perspective is extremely American-centric. He states that there is no country "in the history of the world" where racism has had such an impact. He belittles the rest of the world with opinions like this. To be fair the text is edited down from the much larger People's History that Zinn has been revising since 1980. The Young People's edit leave out a lot of context and evidence. It covers a wide swath of American history in a short text, so it is far from a complete historical text. Zinn offers the "other" perspective, but from the point-of-view of the dominant class. I don't intend that statement as a criticism. ( )
  AmyNorthMartinez | May 5, 2013 |
I loved the original A People's History and longed for a way to use it in a high-school setting, and now I've found an adapted version more suitable to a younger audience. It is not just a watered down edited version of the original, but it has also had passages added to it which include the contributions of young people to America's history. It has also had a few scetches and drawings to illustrate the text. I am looking forward to bringing this resource into my classroom and hearing how the students respond to it in relation to their regular textbook. ( )
1 vote carolineW | Nov 6, 2012 |
A history book written from the perspective of the oppressed, "A Young People's History of the United States" provides a shocking account of how war, racism, and economic injustice created America and exponentially increased its power from the days of Columbus to the Spanish American War. This book does not sugarcoat any part of American history to downplay the immense bloodshed and oppression. It is an important to include nontraditional viewpoints in a young adult's learning of American history; such books should be widely read. What I enjoyed most about this book was how it highlighted true heroes such as Batolome de Las Casas and Mark Twain, who denounced the so-called heroes of their day, Columbus and Theodore Roosevelt, respectively, who encouraged massacres of innocent people. Personally, I cannot wait to read the original version of this book, which is targeted towards adults. ( )
  dibiboi | Mar 6, 2011 |
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A history of the United States from its beginnings to the early twenty-first century, as told from the point of view of ordinary people, including slaves and Native Americans, to reveal the violence, racism, and injustices which occurred during key events.… (more)

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