My American Revolution: Crossing the Delaware and I-78

Overview

In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan investigates the true history of the crossing of the Delaware, its down-home reenactment each year for the past half a century, and - toward the end of a personal odyssey that involves camping in New Jersey backyards, hiking through lost "mountains," and eventually some physical therapy - he evacuates illegally from Brooklyn to Manhattan by handmade boat. He recounts a Brooklyn historian's failed attempt to memorialize a colonial Maryland regiment; a tattoo artist's more...

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Overview

In My American Revolution, Robert Sullivan investigates the true history of the crossing of the Delaware, its down-home reenactment each year for the past half a century, and - toward the end of a personal odyssey that involves camping in New Jersey backyards, hiking through lost "mountains," and eventually some physical therapy - he evacuates illegally from Brooklyn to Manhattan by handmade boat. He recounts a Brooklyn historian's failed attempt to memorialize a colonial Maryland regiment; a tattoo artist's more successful use of a colonial submarine, which resulted in his 2007 arrest by the New York City police and the FBI; and last but not least, along New York harbor, Sullivan re-creates an ancient signal beacon.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A nostalgic, witty, and always informative topographic retrospective of the sites pertinent to the American Revolution takes Vogue contributing editor and journalist Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don’t Know) to the action seen by the middle colonies especially—New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. Years of reflective walks and “site-inspired epiphanies” inform Sullivan’s research, as he traced Washington’s army crossing the Delaware, marching to engage the British at the battles of Trenton and Princeton, and into the winter refuge at Morristown, in the Watchung Mountains. In the second part, Sullivan discourses by turns on the seasons of the revolution, not in any chronological fashion, e.g., spring 1789 marked the inauguration of the new president in a vastly changing downtown Manhattan, which Sullivan reached by his own personal inaugural barge from Elizabeth, N.J., to Wall Street; summer sounded the anniversary of the disastrous rout at the Battle of Brooklyn; autumn ushered a rueful time of remembrance for soldiers and prisoners; and winter brings to mind the appalling hard winter at Valley Forge endured by the army. As infatuated by later decades’ of monuments, statues, and artist’s renderings of the revolutionary landscape as he is by the actual history, Sullivan delights in deep digressions into personal moments of discovery, such as viewing Larry Rivers’s controversial Washington Crossing the Delaware at the Museum of Modern Art or coming upon the lists of evolving early Dutch and British markets published by butcher turned street historian Thomas F. DeVoe. Sullivan’s historic anecdotes form a loose-limbed, irreverent, surprising take on American history, most fun in the footnotes. Agent: Eric Simonoff. (Sept.)
From the Publisher
A Best Nonfiction Book of 2012. "A nostalgic, witty, and always informative topographic retrospective of the sites pertinent to the American Revolution takes Vogue contributing editor and journalist Sullivan to the action seen by the middle colonies especially - New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey... Sullivan's historic anecdotes form a loose-limbed, irreverent, surprising take on American history." - Publishers Weekly
"Narrator Mike Chamberlain captures the intimacy of the author's quest." - AudioFile Magazine
"Readers are sure to learn plenty from [Sullivan's] travels... Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don't mind the scenic route." - Kirkus Reviews
"[An] engaging, humorous, and often surprising series of personal reflections upon critical episodes in the birth of a nation. Sullivan combines solid historical knowledge, sensitivity to the physical landscape, and a wry sense of the absurdities inherent in mythmaking to provide a thoroughly enjoyable and original perspective on our revolution." - Booklist
"In his meditative, elliptical way, Sullivan does with the Revolutionary era what Tony Horwitz did with the Civil War...he tracks down the re-enactors, amateur historians and oddballs (himself included) for whom the drums of war never really stopped beating." - New York Times
"...a delightful and quirky history lesson." - USA Today
"My American Revolution is...an effort to find the past in the present, to reconcile each to the other. At its best, [it] accomplishes this with grace and humor...[It] make[s] us see not merely the revolution but also ourselves in new light." - The Washington Post
"Sullivan's exuberant character sketches are as irresistible as they are informative. He is the history teacher you wanted but never had: funny, unpretentiously curious, able to imagine the past with astonishing vitality — a true poet of living history as well as a consummate subversive, showing us how recoveries of the abandoned past are essential for liberty and justice. The people you never heard of, it turns out, can be the ones you most need to hear." - Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[Sullivan's] zeal for local history comes across in the way that he treats each new task with enthusiastic respect... Half history and half just good fun... It's inspiring to watch [Sullivan] attempt to capture even the tiniest bit of the audacity of the American founding." - The Daily Beast
"My American Revolution is a brilliant rereading of an entire landscape. It offers an ingenious approach to history by suggesting that noticing and retracing with care and wit, finding hints and clues, are ways of re-creating the past in all its complexity. It is, on the one hand, a funny book, filled with mishap and adventure, but it is also deeply and seriously engaged with capturing the spirit of a place. It deserves to become one of the indispensable books about New York." - Colm Toibin, author of Brooklyn
Kirkus Reviews
In a roving, digressive memoir, Vogue contributor Sullivan (The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, 2009, etc.) traces Revolutionary War history in and around New York and New Jersey. Looking down from the top of the Empire State Building, the author saw a war landscape he believed to be neglected. Inspired to bring the Revolutionary War history of his hometown into his own present, Sullivan embarked on a long, twisting journey. Though his motives were somewhat muddled from the beginning, his recreational, relaxed plan was to cross the Delaware River, venture into the mountains, and finish the journey by visiting sites and memories inside New York City. Readers are sure to learn plenty from his travels, including little-celebrated battles and long-forgotten soldiers whose stories never made history textbooks. Throughout, the author meanders through his recounting of history, never ignoring a possible detour. In one instance, the fact that a building bearing a Revolutionary War plaque now houses a Trader Joe's store leads to a footnote about colonists boycotting imported English goods and then ends in an anecdote about the kidnapping of Theo Albrecht, the now-deceased former owner of Trader Joe's. Much of the book reads like a journal edited to add more information rather than to streamline thoughts. Considering Sullivan's obvious passion for many of the tangential subjects--associated art and literature, for example--a book of essays might have been a more appropriate project for a general audience. Tailor-made for trivia lovers and readers who don't mind the scenic route. Those looking for a more straightforward narrative are likely to be frustrated.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781624060069
  • Publisher: Dreamscape Media
  • Publication date: 9/25/2012
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Sullivan

Robert Sullivan is the author of Rats, The Meadowlands, A Whale Hunt, and most recently, The Thoreau You Don't Know. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, New York, A Public Space and Vogue, where he is a contributing editor. He was born in Manhattan and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

READER BIO
Mike Chamberlain has narrated audiobooks for Random House Audio, Blackstone Audio, Harper Audio, Penguin Audio, and Audible.com. His other voice work includes NBC Sports, The US Army, and Amazon.com. Mike's originally from New Jersey, and met his wife while performing theater in Boston. They now live in Southern California with their daughter.

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