cover image FREEDOM: A History of US

FREEDOM: A History of US

Joy Hakim, . . Oxford Univ., $40 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-19-515711-6

If members of the History Book Club do not recognize the name Joy Hakim, grade school students know her as the grandmother who writes history. Hakim's widely acclaimed 10-volume A History of US has earned a place in classrooms across the nation. Now she aims to bring history into the nation's homes as well with a companion book for the upcoming PBS miniseries Freedom. She considers herself a storyteller, and indeed, she writes U.S. history from colonial times to the new millennium as the story of the march of liberty. As she recounts the struggles of women, workers, blacks, immigrants and other minorities to participate equally in American society and government, she reiterates the ideals of freedom of religion and speech, and the right to vote, to a fair trial and to education. Despite advertising claims that the book is "for families," Hakim seems to be writing for children. Young readers will like the personable characters, lively action and conversational style ("There's a whole lot more to this freedom story"). Parents may find her chummy "we" presumptuous and her references to the "founding daddies" impudent. The commitment to liberty and justice for all, Hakim writes, is "not corny; it's not maudlin." True; yet for even the most patriotic Americans, her telling of the nation's history may appear a bit of both. 400 color and b&w illus. (Nov. 15)

Forecast:The weekly 16-part PBS miniseries begins airing January 12, 2003, hosted by Katie Couric and introduced by George and Laura Bush, with such noted actors as Paul Newman and Julia Roberts. The inevitable media fest includes a Parade magazine feature and a Today show appearance, an author tour, joint advertising with PBS and series sponsor GE. All this plus Hakim's reputation among teachers, parents and students promise strong sales for the 300,000 first printing.