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American Lives Cultural Differences, Individual Distinction


"What does it mean to be an American? What is it that
we Americans have in common in this pluralistic age?

The study of diverse American lives, presented first hand by those who lived them, is an excellent way to become more thoughtful about our own lives as American citizens. This anthology-reader seeks to serve this end. It is comprised of substantial excerpts from eleven deeply moving autobiographies, written by distinguished men and women from diverse ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds: Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Jacob Riis, Mary Antin, Booker T. Washington, Dick Gregory, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Richard Rodriguez, Maxine Hong Kingston, Theodore Roosevelt, and Malcolm X.

The excerpted lives are presented in pairs, allowing lives, which at first glance seem vastly different, to illustrate similar themes, such as the internal requirements for freedom, the meaning of active citizenship or living between two cultures. For each life, the excerpts present the author’s parochial beginnings, his or her coming to individual self-consciousness, and the distinctive life he or she subsequently lived in the light of such self-awareness.

Students Improve Their Awareness of Others and Themselves

An introductory essay opens up the question of American identity, shows why it is important, and tells why studying American lives through autobiography is well-suited to the inquiry. An introduction to each narrative provides an overview of the autobiographer and his or her life story and presents a set of questions the autobiography invites us to consider. Along with the overall introduction, these questions guide teachers and students in examining the meaning of living an American life, including their own.

Ideal for Social Studies & Literature Curriculums

This book is ideal for a supplementary text in American Studies, as a primary text in American Literature, or as a resource for character and moral education.

About the Author: Amy A. Kass, Ph.D., is a Senior Lecturer in Humanities at the Univ. of Chicago. She has earned recognition as a teacher, author and lecturer in the classical literature, philosophy and women’s studies, and as an advocate of using autobiographies to teach cultural literacy and civic education.

Price: $42.50



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