cover image Flag: An American Biography

Flag: An American Biography

Marc Leepson, . . St. Martin's/ Dunne, $35.95 (334pp) ISBN 978-0-312-32308-0

Leepson notes that "no country in the world can match the intensity of the American citizenry's attachment to the... Stars and Stripes." He goes on to chart the evolution of the flag and Americans' relationship with it in its detail-packed history. Despite the famous image in George Washington Crossing the Delaware, Leepson (Saving Monticello ) says, the general's boat did not display the Stars and Stripes; the Continental Congress hadn't yet determined what the American flag would be. And "flagmania," as a 19th-century newspaper termed it, began only with the start of the Civil War. Embraced by the Ku Klux Klan, burned by Vietnam War protestors, the Stars and Stripes was again embraced in the wake of 9/11 as a ubiquitous symbol of American solidarity. Such was the revived flagmania, Leepson relates, that the flag was used to sell everything from contact lenses to disposable diapers. From reverence to kitsch, Americans' attitudes to their flag and its mythology have changed over the years, and Leepson does a creditable job of recounting those changes just in time for July 4. Agent, Joseph Brendan Vallely . (June)