Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong by James W. Loewen was the first nonfiction, non memoir book I ever read of my own free will, in 2003 when I was twenty-two. It was the book that showed me I could enjoy reading a nonfiction book based on facts and research (as opposed to fiction and as opposed to nonfiction that’s story-based), especially when it wasn’t assigned. Many more books of this variety came after, but this book was my first.
Lies My Teacher Told Me explores the misinformation in American History textbooks by looking at it from several different angles. The most prominent of these is James W. Loewen’s thorough survey of twelve textbooks used in American History high school classes across the country and exploring where they fall short–omissions, some outright lies, reliance on secondary (and tertiary, etc.) sources instead of available primary sources–and how they leave us disconnected from our history. He also goes into the process for textbook approval for school systems, and how censorship can often play a role there.
Another imported post, this one from June 2008. Quick fun fact: Diana Abu-Jaber actually teaches at my university but I’ve never taken a class from her.
When I first went to Diana Abu-Jaber’s website, I noticed something on there about a school in Texas banning her book Crescent and a link to the offending paragraphs. At the time, I was on a bit of a linking spree and I didn’t stop to read more. Crescent was a great book, but it’s been years since I read it and I read it on loan from a friend and I couldn’t think what would be offensive about it. It’s a story featuring Iraqi-Americans and so I thought maybe it had something to do with that. Mostly though, Crescent is a love story, rich with myth and story and family, faraway homelands, poetry and cooking. Reading that book will make your mouth water for certain.
Years ago, Diana Abu-Jaber came to Orcas for a signing/reading at our local bookstore, and I didn’t find out about it until afterward. Neither did my friend who’d loaned me Crescent. We were disappointed we’d missed her. Last week, I was pointing out Crescent to my good friend Leo and looked at some of her other books and ended up picking up her first novel, Arabian Jazz and just started reading it the other day.