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Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom

Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom

by Andisheh Nouraee

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Aimed at teens who want to know more about the day-to-day workings of the U.S. government, this unique blend of humor and information is a cross between a textbook and a satire.

A crash course for understanding critical events in America and the world, it touches upon a variety of topics-historical and current-and explains how they unfolded and why they are


Aimed at teens who want to know more about the day-to-day workings of the U.S. government, this unique blend of humor and information is a cross between a textbook and a satire.

A crash course for understanding critical events in America and the world, it touches upon a variety of topics-historical and current-and explains how they unfolded and why they are important in the political and governmental arenas. Funny and intelligent writing, very reminiscent of the Daily Show, provides insight into the American electoral system, the world economy, the role religion plays in world conflicts, and America's place in world. The final chapter provides information about how to get involved.

Authors will have a Web site dedicated to the book where information can be updated, teens can read more and find out ways to get involved, can join online discussions, and speak their minds about the issues.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Perhaps taking a cue from Jon Stewart's 2004 civics guide America (and the Daily Show itself), this examination of the state of the union uses edgy humor to discuss pertinent matters in the worlds of politics, international relations, religion, and culture. Bullet points, footnotes, sidebars, and tongue-in-cheek graphics (Jesus has an active Facebook page) lighten heady topics like nuclear proliferation and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Despite the irreverent tone (a "hate chart" compares the KKK and Al-Qaeda; a later subheading reads, "If you liked the bubonic plague, you'll love AIDS"), discussions of such topics as the stem cell debate, global warming, and gerrymandering remind readers of the seriousness behind the issues. And historical and cultural literacy delivered with a subversive twist is better than none at all. Ages 12–up. (July)
"Readers--of any age--will come away from this sassy compendium knowing a lot (some, no doubt, would say too much) about our country's history, form of government, decisions, and workings, for better or worse." -(Starred Review)
Children's Literature - Marcie Flinchum Atkins
Do you know a politically savvy pre-teen or teen? This snarky but informative take on our country's history might be just the right book. However, be forewarned, this book touches on every controversial topic imaginable in our society—from political parties to abortion to gay marriage to religion. Chapters focus on the history of our country, dynasties, economics, foreign affairs, religions, and "hot topics." The conversational, and at times, late night talk show, tone would appeal to teenagers. This text pokes fun at a lot of things—from the Twilight saga to dictators in the Middle East. Charts compare religions and "bogeymen" (Ahmadinejad, Hussein, and Kim Jong Il, just to name a few). There are also a lot of pop culture references as well. The writers of this book are poking fun while giving a little bit of education along the way. It is full of information for students who would like a good overview of a lot of historical and modern political information. Their writing is biased, but the writers admit to their bias, so do not expect it to be in the vein of a World Book encyclopedia. The writers even put a disclaimer at the beginning of the book that the reader may not agree with everything, and in fact authors may have gotten some things wrong. They invite readers to let them know where they have messed up. But if you know a teenager that enjoys politics, gets a laugh out of political commentary and cartoons, they will probably enjoy this book; even if they do not agree with the writers. Reviewer: Marcie Flinchum Atkins
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—In this witty, irreverent romp through history, the authors attempt to give teens what The Daily Show and The Colbert Report have done for adults, but in this case provide an amusing way of engaging with America's past. Along the way, readers are introduced to such topics as the intricacies of a balanced budget as well as the diversity of America's religious communities. Each chapter centers on a general theme including government ("Civics, Pimped Out"), presidential and other dynasties (including the Adamses, Roosevelts, and Rockefellers), "Economics Made Fun," foreign affairs ("Diplo-messy"), and America's "hot button" issues. Flashy photos, charts, and/or sidebars appear on every spread. Each chapter also poses and answers a number of questions from "what is the difference between a primary and a caucus?" to "What makes a person Jewish, and does Madonna count?" While some points border on being hokey, readers will be drawn to this entertaining and informative read, which is packed with full-color photos and hilarious sidebars. Americapedia is a good choice for fans of Adam Selzer's The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History (Delacorte, 2009)—Brian Odom, Pelham Public Library, AL
Pamela Paul
…like Jon Stewart's America for the Y.A. set…while the book holds no shortage of attitude and satire, it also imparts an impressive array of historical substance and even a degree of earnestness and patriotism…
—The New York Times
VOYA - Lori Guenthner
American citizens should be aware of how the government works and why so they can make a difference. A roadblock to some is that civics may seem dry. Humor, pop culture, and pictures of adorable animals are not usually part of the delivery. As the authors say, "This is a new kind of resource—not a textbook and not a parody but a primer that combines the best elements of both." A broader range of topics is covered, but the scope is similar to Jon Stewart's America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction (Grand, 2004). Cleverly named chapters are devoted to civics, dynasties, economics, religion, contemporary issues, and volunteerism, such as "Diplo-Messy (Foreign Affairs—But Not in the 'People I've Kissed on Vacation' Sense)." Written for novices of any age or those who would like a refresher course, concepts are simplified and understandable. Those struggling to grasp current events might find this helpful as well. Resources are listed for those looking for more in-depth information. The accuracy and unbiased nature of the information is left for the reader to decide. The authors do not claim to be correct and encourage readers to e-mail their complaints. The conclusion encourages involvement and has a list of organizations whose interests match certain issues. This book is worth purchasing to flip through and read sporadically. Reviewer: Lori Guenthner
Kirkus Reviews
Sounding like a corny uncle knee-slapping his way through a civics textbook, or perhaps a high-school history teacher certain that name-dropping rock bands will make him seem hip, this full-color guidebook aims for edutainment but falls far short.

Despite the implication of the title, the subject matter is not comprehensive, instead covering a hodgepodge of topics from the Electoral College to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the Salem Witch Trials. In an attempt to enliven dry, disjointed infodumps, the authors crack constant, unfunny verbal and visual jokes that range from painfully dated (the chapter on dynasties in U.S. business and politics devotes most of a page to an aside about the TV show Dynasty, complete with a photograph of the cast) to downright tasteless ("Mexico sends us hardworking laborers, petroleum...and the irresistible two taco/one enchilada combo plate"). Visual content also serves as a gag (a picture of an Afghan hound in the War on Terror section is captioned "Afghans are known for their distrust of outsiders and lustrous coats"). The brief conclusion takes a more serious turn by suggesting steps toward activism and pointing readers toward organizations working on a variety of issues.

There are a few nuggets of helpful information here, but readers will be too busy groaning to find them. (Nonfiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
8.50(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

What People are Saying About This

The New York Times
"Jon Stewart's "America" for the Y.A. set."

Meet the Author

Jodi Anderson is a New York Times best-selling author of Peaches and The Secrets of Peaches. Before becoming a full-time author, she was an editor at HarperCollins and 17th Street Productions.

Daniel Ehrenhaft is the author of several books for young adults including Friend Is Not a Verb, Dirty Laundry, 10 Things to Do Before I Die and Drawing A Blank, which received two starred reviews. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. www.danielehrenhaft.com

Andisheh (An-dish-ay) Nouraee is a writer for CARE, one of the world's largest humanitarian aid agencies and a columnist for Creative Loafing, an alt-weekly newspaper in Atlanta. His syndicated column, "Don't Panic" is a sarcastic, informative examination of American policy and world affairs. He lives in Decatur, Georgia.


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