Reviews for Revolution song : a story of American freedom

Publishers Weekly
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Shorto (Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City) brings the American Revolution to life in this vibrant account of six remarkable Revolutionary-era people, weaving together their stories to reflect on emergent understandings of individual freedom within the Atlantic world. Attuned to the cultural and political complexities of early America, Shorto examines well-known public figures-future president George Washington, Seneca warrior Cornplanter, and colonial administrator George Sackville-alongside those engaged in more private struggles for freedom: soldier's daughter Margaret Moncrieffe; Venture Smith, an enslaved African man who later bought his freedom; and shoemaker Abraham Yates. Each character is portrayed as an individual, not an archetype. By paying close attention to the ways that particular lives unfold in the face of revolution, Shorto reflects on the emotional experience as well as the historical consequences of America's violent birth. Readers interested in looking past America's founding myths will be especially charmed by this history-George Washington, for one, appears in a new light as a devoted reader of self-help books with a penchant for fashion design. Though Shorto's attempts to render the interior lives of his six characters can appear too speculative, his attention to everyday detail anchors his portraits and helps reveal the precariousness of freedom in an unequal, rapidly changing society. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Americans' struggle for freedom and independence affected a wide range of individuals.Aiming to reveal the reality of life in the Colonies and Britain before and during the Revolution, Shorto (Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, 2013, etc.) focuses on six different people: George Washington; British aristocrat and statesman George Germain, Lord Sackville; Venture Smith, an African-born slave; Abraham Yates, a shoemaker who rose to become mayor of his native Albany, New York; Cornplanter, a Seneca warrior; and Margaret Coghlan, the American-born daughter of a British officer. Except for Washington and Sackville, the protagonists are little known, which affords the author a fresh and often fascinating perspective on 18th-century life. Drawing on memoirs, letters, archival material, and much historical writing, he fashions a brisk chronological narrative that jumps from one individual to another. Smith's story is especially lively: a tall, strapping young man, he quickly learned "how to leverage his position" even though he was enslaved and managed to buy freedom for himselfand eventually for his wife and children. Settling in Stonington, Connecticut, he amassed considerable property, so much that when his former owner fell into bankruptcy, Smith offered him a mortgage on 100-plus acres of land, and, in the transaction, managed to provide an inheritance for his own son. Yates emerges as a complicated character: working for popular representation, nevertheless he was "convinced that government, any government, was a thing to be mistrusted," growing ever more powerful, "always at the expense of individuals." He was opposed to ratifying the Constitution because it gave the federal government "vast powers" and therefore was pleasantly surprised at the creation of the Bill of Rights, which ensured individual freedoms. Coghlan seems the most arbitraryand unrepresentativeof Shorto's choices: young, intelligent, and well bred, she was beautiful enough to attract many indulgent lovers in America and abroad, where she ended her life in penury. If Coghlan "felt the pull of freedom," still Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Gloria Steinem hardly seem to be her "ideological descendants." An intimate look at life in tumultuous times. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Shorto (The Island at the Center of the World) depicts the American Revolution through the experiences of six individuals: Venture Smith, a slave who remade himself into a prosperous free man; George Germain, who directed Britain's war effort; Cornplanter, an Iroquois chief who fought alongside the -British; Abraham Yates, who democratized New York politics; George Washington, who commanded the rebel army; and Margaret Coghlan, née -Moncrieffe, who defied gender norms. Caught up in war and intrigue, each of these figures provides insight into the era's tumultuous sociopolitical conditions. And their lives make for great stories. Germain was once court-martialed and nearly shot for refusing to obey orders. While leading a raid, Cornplanter happened to capture his own father, a white man. Coghlan was a British officer's daughter who irritated Washington, fell in love with future vice president Aaron Burr and flouted convention as a companion to sundry British lords and politicians. VERDICT A sprawling, engaging social and political history, Shorto's spin on the American Revolution never bores and often pleases. Public libraries should see high circulation.-Michael Rodriguez, Univ. of Connecticut © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Shorto (The Island at the Center of the World) weaves together the stories of six people, all from the same era, to present a multi-faceted and objective account of the American Revolution. He focuses on George Washington, the effective yet complicated leader; George Germain/Lord Sackville, who directed the British war effort; Cornplanter, the Seneca chief; Venture Smith, a freed slave brought to New England from Africa as a boy; Abraham Yates, a shoemaker who rises to prominence in Colonial politics; and Margaret Coghlan, the free-spirited daughter of a British army officer stationed in the United States. Shorto points out the contrast between the new country's ideal of individual freedom for all and the reality that slavery was condoned, even in ostensibly abolitionist New England, and women continued to have few rights of their own. The Iroquois, whom Cornplanter represents, were deceived and robbed of their lands, despite treaties to the contrary. The only weakness in this carefully researched, informative account of our early nation is the questionable relevance of Coghlan's rebellion against British society's restrictions on women's behavior. The author's narration is clear and straightforward. VERDICT Thoughtful Americans, as well as history enthusiasts, should love this book. ["A sprawling, engaging social and political history, Shorto's spin on the American Revolution never bores and often pleases": LJ 10/15/17 review of the Norton hc.]-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY Geneseo © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

*Starred Review* In this timely and engaging group biography, Shorto (Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, 2013) explores the philosophical currents of the revolutionary era through an unusual assemblage of life stories. He juxtaposes George Washington and Seneca military leader and diplomat Cornplanter, and profiles Lord George Germain, architect of British policy and strategy during the Revolutionary War; Venture Smith, an African-born Connecticut slave who bought his freedom and established economic independence; New York anti-federalist politician and activist Abraham Yates Jr., and Margaret Moncrieffe Cochran, who fled an unwanted marriage to become a demimondaine, chronic debtor, and memoirist. Their experiences make for a compelling narrative, rich in unexpected twists, turns, and parallels, that allows Shorto to explore how engagement with revolutionary ideals reflected social and economic class, gender, region, race, culture, and political allegiance. The war itself is the fulcrum of the study but not its focus. Indeed, Shorto argues that the American Revolution never ended, because its promise of freedom has never been fully achieved, nor have its questions about the nature of the relations between individuals and society been fully answered. This important addition to popular literature on the revolution enables readers to engage these issues on many levels.--Jorgensen, Sara Copyright 2017 Booklist

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