Journalist Heather Lende has been writing obituaries in the small town of Haines, Alaska, for 20 years.
Part civics lesson, part trivia contest — “Stuff Every American Should Know” informs readers about everything from the difference between the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights to the 10 foods that are truly American and the books all American should read.
There’s also a refresher on past presidential assassinations (completed and foiled) and is it really illegal to rip a dollar bill in half? Yes, we learn. Also, who invented the blue jean? Not Levi Strauss. The idea started with merchants in India who sold a blue “hard-wearing fabric” that came from Dongari Fort, and was referred to as “dungaree,” according to the book.
“Stuff Every American Should Know” was written by the husband-wife team of Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese, who say the project grew out of an interest in American history — and a desire to explain it clearly.
“We were always fascinated by the misconceptions that some people have about American history,” Kiernan told Here & Now‘s Robin Young.
Though fireworks are not uniquely American, they were invented by the Chinese more than 1,300 years ago, they became associated with major American events as early as the 1700s, according to “Stuff Every American Should Know.”
And John Adams wrote to his wife Abigail that Americans should mark the nation’s birthday in a big way. “It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever,” he wrote.
Lists and trivia based on “Stuff Every American Should Know,” by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese. Copyright (c) 2012 by Denise Kiernan and Joseph D’Agnese.
Peter O’Dowd follows the route of Abraham Lincoln's funeral train 150 years ago, to look at modern-day race relations and Lincoln's legacy.