Sunday, April 28, 2013

Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Homefront during World War 1 by Ann Bausum

Unraveling Freedom: The Battle for Democracy on the Homefront during World War 1 by Ann Bausum is a fantastic book for young readers to begin their study of the history of America in the 20th century.
 Unraveling Freedom is a book about the home front during the First World War or as it was known then the Great War, within its pages it details common experiences such as bond drives, the great debate about American foreign policy and isolationism but then delves into the topic much deeper. The story continues with tales about such colorful characters as Eugene V Debs leader of the American Socialist Party during which time numerous leaders of the party including Debs himself were imprisoned. It delves into the darker side of the bond drives in which citizens and aliens alike could be looked down upon or much worse if they did not provide ample loyalty in the form of buying bonds. It also explains and details numerous crimes that were perpetrated against aliens and citizens alike from public lynchings to tar and feathering practices and makes special note of the laws passed and fought over that curtailed anti war sentiments. It even discuses the Palmer raids during the first Red Scare when countless citizens were deported abroad for their allegiance to the left. All of these topics will arouse interest both in new readers of history and ones already familiar with the war itself given the climate of today's war on terror and the clamor against socialism in America.

The one thing I can say the book suffers from is the fact that Ann Bausum tries too hard at one specific point to draw parallels between the world the young readers are living in and compare it to our modern world. The point to be specific is the comparison between the sinking of the Lusitania and 9/11 which were completely different both as events, their context and their effects. Without going to far into the description of the events the Lusitania was a British ship outfitted built and outfitted with the future war in Europe in mind it was targeted by a German U-boat (submarine) and sunk off of the British coast. The Lusitania just so happened to have American passengers on board and when combined with the note that this would become a common sight if unrestricted undersea warfare commenced inflamed American public opinion leading to Germany putting a stop to unrestricted warfare on the high seas for a time at least. The fact that Imperial Germany resumed unrestricted warfare several years later is what led to American engagement in the war a very different event from the attack on the soil of the United States that led directly to the invasion of Afghanistan a nation that was allowing the perpetrator to operate within its territory. It is dishonest to compare the two events and within the book itself feels forced when compared to numerous parallels which did actually occur that she illustrates within the text.

That all being said overall I would say that the book itself is an excellent read for students in grammar and high school due to its ability to bridge a large historical gap and make the events it describes relevant for young readers. Furthermore the fact that the book takes great strides in expanding students knowledge of domestic US politics during the war and other portions of American history that are often overlooked make the book a wonderful text for helping to educate today's youth in language they can understand.

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