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Revisiting America: Readings in Race, Culture and Conflict

22 Feb 2017Literature Essays

Abstract

Revisiting America: Readings in Race, Culture and Conflict, by Susan Wyle, is a rhetorical rendition of the American history. The reader, roughly organized chronologically offers insightful reading on a myriad of racial and cultural struggles in the past and present of American history. Chapter 1 called "Early Conflicts on the Eastern Shore," includes readings that range from a scholarly discussion of the Pocahontas myth to the trial testimonies of the Salem Witch Trials, addressing issues of race, gender, slavery, and freedom in colonial America. Chapter 3, "Conflicts on the Way West," includes a wide variety of primary and secondary sources dealing with the racial, social, and gender -based conflicts experienced by the men and women who traveled west. The next chapter, "Slavery and the Civil War," examines the experiences of slaves and freedmen, soldiers and women, politicians and writers who participated in many different aspects of the Civil War.

Chapter 9 on "Conflicts Past and Conflicts Present," offers more recent twentieth century and twenty-first century readings that deal with a variety of contemporary issues, including conflicts of gender, race, and immigration, all of which find their roots in issues and events represented in earlier chapters of the text. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction that provides historical background and "Before You Read" questions for students to keep in mind while reading the selections. Each selection is accompanied by background information on the author, post-reading "Discussion Questions," and post-reading "Writing Suggestions."

Moreover, it gives readers a balanced perspective as it combines primary, archival, Internet, and secondary sources. Students can get an access to some amazing primary source sites, in addition to secondary and historical sources, and then immediately go to the sites for further research. Encouraging students to think critically about the past and about the relevance of historical issues to contemporary times. This offers students a look at original documents and enables instructors to design assignments involving visual analysis. As readers after reading this book, we look forward to more books by the same author.

REVISITING AMERICA

Revisiting America: Readings in Race, Culture and Conflict, by Susan Wyle, is a rhetorical rendition of the American history. The reader, roughly organized chronologically offers insightful reading on a myriad of racial and cultural struggles in the past and present of American history. Its combination of primary, secondary and literary sources encourage readers to think critically about the issues which have shaped the American world, which take route in the early history of America and which continue to be important in society even to this day. She takes a sociologist perspective to her work. Her writings are thought provoking as she provides a rhetorical experience to the successes and blunders of the American history. Her readers explore their own experience and transfer this experience on to the interpretation of the audience exploring a particular piece of history at a particular time. With the difference in the audience/reader, the interpretation also tends to be different. This book also offers a glimpse into the power of language – spoken and written – in shaping ideas, attitudes and politics when conflicts arise.

Both well and lesser-known authors, their readings are used here to trace the evolution of conflicts in American history from the 17th century on, and it compares and contrasts issues involving class, race and gender over those centuries. This book provides the required historical voice for one who is interested to know hoe America has become the complex and multi-cultural place that it is today. To do justice to the major themes of class, race, culture and gender issues in America till date the book touches upon an engaging variety of topics including transcripts from Salem Witch Trials, speeches and writings by a number of native Americans, journals from women who dressed as men so as to be able to fight in the Civil War, Presidential speeches dating back to the 18th century and a range of contemporary accounts of the figure and myth of Pocahontas. This book is mainly for those people who like to read non-fiction history. Readers and students also get a sense of how history is ultimately rhetorical: the most persuasive and appealing of a given historical phenomena is a function of audience, contemporary circumstances and the rhetorical choices of the author.

Through these varied perspectives students/readers become familiarized with issues of audience and argument, the provocative and varied readings provide a powerful springboard for student writing. However, the text is not intended to give a full history of all the conflicts of race, culture, class and gender in the United States, but rather to offer some key readings that will encourage students and readers to think and critically to pursue research topics generated by the readings, discussions, questions and writing suggestions in each chapter.

“I have included a number of primary and secondary sources that are not widely published, in addition to readings with which teachers and students may be more familiar. For example, students can read Tituba's own trial testimony from the Salem Witch Trials, Ouster's outspoken opinion about Native Americans, and the writings of Luther Standing Bear; readers can peruse Junipero Serra's letter to Father Juan Andres as well as historian Richard White's revisionist view of the mission system; and writers can study the speeches and rhetorical devices of presidents, feminists, Vietnam protesters, and African American civil rights activists in the context of both literary texts and researched essays. These primary, secondary, and literary selections invite students to challenge their own assumptions about race, culture, and conflict in the United States, and to expand, through self -reflection, journal writing, critical reading, analytical essays, comparison essays, and researched arguments, their own understanding of both past and contemporary society in America.”(Wyle, 2004)

The "Introduction" to this text covers a number of important aspects of reading and writing, including tips on finding and using primary sources, the differences between primary and secondary sources, how to search the Web for accurate and unusual collections, and a brief discussion of fallacies and the evaluation of arguments. A detailed analysis of the table of contents provides valuable insight to the wide range of themes covered in the book.

Chapter 1 called "Early Conflicts on the Eastern Shore," includes readings that range from a scholarly discussion of the Pocahontas myth to the trial testimonies of the Salem Witch Trials, addressing issues of race, gender, slavery, and freedom in colonial America. Chapter 2, "The Native Americans versus the Newcomers," offers opposing perspectives from Native Americans, U.S. presidents, and scholars about the loss of Indian lands, the assimilation of Native Americans into white "civilization," and the process of Indian relocation under Presidents Jefferson and Jackson. Chapter 3, "Conflicts on the Way West," includes a wide variety of primary and secondary sources dealing with the racial, social, and gender -based conflicts experienced by the men and women who traveled west.

The next chapter, "Slavery and the Civil War," examines the experiences of slaves and freedmen, soldiers and women, politicians and writers who participated in many different aspects of the Civil War. In Chapter 5 named, "Conflicts in California: The Missions, the Gold Rush, and Chinese Exclusion," we are offered a variety of writings that portray the conflicts between the Catholic missions and early Californians, the struggles of men and women who followed the lure of gold, and the experience of the Chinese who built the railroad and then faced a series of exclusion laws. Chapter 6 named "Poverty, Wealth, and the American Dream," includes essays, letters, poetry, and congressional testimony about the experiences of the poorest immigrants and the wealthiest

Americans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Chapter 7 dealing with "The Depression and the Two World Wars on the Home Front," uses visual and textual arguments, media selections, and propaganda posters to examine some of the economic, political, and racial hardships of the Depression and the two world wars. Chapter 8, "Civil Rights, Protest, and Foreign Wars," looks at the writings and speeches of women, minorities, and civil rights leaders in the 1960s and 1970s and examines the rhetoric of politicians and presidents sending troops to Vietnam and the Gulf War.

Chapter 9 on "Conflicts Past and Conflicts Present," offers more recent twentieth century and twenty-first century readings that deal with a variety of contemporary issues, including conflicts of gender, race, and immigration, all of which find their roots in issues and events represented in earlier chapters of the text. In addition, this chapter offers written and visual text selections by authors and artists responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11. Each chapter starts with a brief introduction that provides historical background and "Before You Read" questions for students to keep in mind while reading the selections. Each selection is accompanied by background information on the author, post-reading "Discussion Questions," and post-reading "Writing Suggestions." Each chapter ends with final "Writing Suggestions" and suggestions for "Further Research on the Web."

Besides being a source for detailed reference for students to understand America as a major multicultural country the other main commendable features of the book is that it offers a broad scope and range of readings as it traces the evolution of conflicts in American history from the 17th century onward and enables students to compare and contrast issues involving race, class, and gender over the centuries. Moreover, it gives readers a balanced perspective as it combines primary, archival, Internet, and secondary sources.

Giving students a reading assortment of essays, fiction, and poetry, in addition to an understanding of personal experiences and the experiences of a nation. There is also an engaging variety of topics. This familiarizes students with the types of events and the times that helped to create the laws, ideas, attitudes, and politics of the United States today. Moreover there are also contributions from both well- and lesser-known authors, this introduces students to a range of historical voices, which have come together to make America the complex and multicultural place that it is today. There are relevant Website lists providing links to educational/governmental sites; and well-established museums such as the Smithsonian. Students can get an access to some amazing primary source sites, in addition to secondary and historical sources, and then immediately go to the sites for further research. It also allows instructors to assign research projects involving primary source work without having to research the Web themselves. The reading and writing assignments at the end of each section includes comparisons of issues across the decades.

Encouraging students to think critically about the past and about the relevance of historical issues to contemporary times. Visual, historical materials—Features propaganda posters and advertisements from WWI, WWII, and the Manzanar relocation camps. This offers students a look at original documents and enables instructors to design assignments involving visual analysis. As readers after reading this book, we look forward to more books by the same author.

References:

Wyle, Susan. (2004). Revisiting America: Readings in Race, Culture and Conflict. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall

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