Don't know much about history? That's where Joy Hakim comes in. Dedicated to the ambitious cause of making learning about our country's past actually seem like fun, Hakim has helped readers of all ages get hip to history. Her award-winning ten-volume series A History of U.S. is considered nothing less than a revolution in education circles, and historians and celebrities alike endorse Hakim's mission.
Armed with a bachelor's degree in government from Smith and a master's from Goucher College, Hakim started out as a teacher, and later worked as a newspaper writer and editor. Realizing that the rather dry text and lifeless prose of some history books she was using to teach with made her students less than enthusiastic learners -- and believing that U.S. history should be as fun to read as fiction -- Hakim began to develop the A History of U.S. series of American history lessons. It took Hakim seven years to finish the series -- which owes much of its kid-friendly appeal to the author's practice of using children as her editors.
A History of U.S. was a hit with students and critics alike, winning the James A. Michener Prize for Writing in 1997. In addition, esteemed historians have endorsed Hakim's teachings with as much enthusiasm as she brings to her subject. John Adams author David McCullough describes her lively and effective approach: "Never dull, never the least plodding, [Hakim] brings refreshing spirit and common sense to the telling of every episode."
In her latest work, 2002's Freedom: A History of U.S., Hakim examines the theme of freedom and what it means to America -- from the actions of our founding fathers to the watershed events of the Civil Rights movement, through the challenges we face in the wake of the September 11 attacks. A 16-part PBS companion special features a star-studded roster of hosts from Today anchor Katie Couric to Hollywood power couple Christopher and Dana Reeve. The Reeves, on why they chose to participate in the event, write on the book's jacket: "Freedom offers us the opportunity to examine the road we have traveled, to better understand why we have fought so hard to keep the idea of freedom at the core of what we believe."
According to Hakim, it's all about the story. On her publisher's Web site, she sums up her signature approach: "Finding the story in a subject is to discover its essence. If we can teach our students to pattern the world into stories, we can turn them into powerful, analytical thinkers."
(Amanda H. Reid)
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Hakim is the only author to receive an award from the National Council for Social Studies for writing textbooks.
When she's not writing and researching at her Virginia home, she spends time sharing stories with her grandchildren in Colorado.
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