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

Ilan Stavans and Lalo Alcaraz. Basic Books, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-465-03669-1
Following up the creators’ Latino USA: A Cartoon History (2000), this book demonstrates that comics may be the ideal form to express contrarian thinking—in this case, alternate views of American history. One panel shows a straight portrait of John Quincy Adams penning an 1811 passage that justifies U.S. domination of all North America based on “divine providence,” juxtaposed with a modern Latino who observes, “And you Gringos wonder why everyone hates you....” Throughout the book, Amherst professor Stavans and L.A. cartoonist Alcaraz cast their skeptical, sarcastic eyes on the accepted notion of America’s steady progress as capably managed by upright white males. Alcaraz gets the point across using the hard-to-miss icons of editorial cartooning with a clean, cartoony style. One disadvantage of the contrarian approach is that it seems to amount to a random smattering of disparaging comments. But that’s the point: our history is more complicated than most Americans suppose, shaped by a more diverse swarm of people than we want to imagine. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/12/2014
Release date: 07/01/2014
Genre: Comics
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