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Extended Audio Sample A Renegade History of the United States, by Thaddeus Russell Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (296 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Thaddeus Russell Narrator: J. Paul Boehme Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Historian Howard Zinn demonstrated that there are compelling, alternative histories that are both scholarly and valuable. Now Thaddeus Russell provides a challenging new way of reading history that will turn convention on its head and is sure to elicit as much controversy as it does support.

Russell shows that drunkards, laggards, prostitutes, and pirates were the real heroes of the American Revolution. Slaves worked less and had more fun than free men. Prostitutes, not feminists, won women’s liberation. White people lost their rhythm when they became good Americans. Without organized crime, we might not have Hollywood, Las Vegas, labor unions, legal alcohol, birth control, or gay rights. Zoot-suiters and rock-and-rollers, not Ronald Reagan or the peace movement, brought down the Soviet Union. And Britney Spears will win the war on terror.

It was not the elitists who created real revolution in America nor the political radicals whom Zinn credits, but the people on the fringes of society who laid the foundation for change and were responsible for many of the freedoms we cherish today. American history was driven by clashes between those interested in preserving social order and those more interested in pursuing their own desires—the “respectable” versus the “degenerate,” the moral versus the immoral, “good citizens” versus the “bad.” The more that “bad” people existed, resisted, and won, the greater was our common good.

In A Renegade History of the United States, Russell introduces us to the origins of our nation’s identity as we have never known them before.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “This lively, contrarian work [is]…A sharp, lucid, entertaining view of the “bad” American past.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Listener Opinions

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 by Katie Hurst | 2/8/2014

    " Couldn't even finish. Arguments didn't really make sense and it seemed the same point was being used over and over, just with different context. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Rick | 2/1/2014

    " If nothing else, this book makes you think about the role the fringes of society have played in bringing about social change. While I am not an advocate of deviant behavior, it is important to recognize that good, hard-working, church-going, civilly disobedient folks aren't the only ones who built America. If we do enough family research, we will find less-respectable people among our progenitors. According to Russell, many overworked whites idealized the lives of slaves, America's rebellious youth culture may have influenced the collapse of communism more than the CIA or arms race, Jews dominated American sports in the earlier half of the 20th Century before they sought out more "respectable" professions, and the Mafia had a role in promoting gay liberation. In any case, it's entertaining. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Amber McAlister | 1/30/2014

    " An entertaining, though occasionally outrageous and needlessly inflammatory, romp through U.S. history focusing on immigrants, shoppers, gangs, prostitutes, and degenerates. Certain segments of the book had me in stitches-the author's account of the Puritan view of dancing, for instance. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Sean | 1/30/2014

    " This is quite a challenging little book, and you kind of have to take for granted that Thaddeus Russell's heart is in the right place, because many of his very un-PC claims will really turn some people off, especially the one about slaves not working as hard as white puritans. He also apes conservative claims about the New Deal being inspired by fascism/naziism, and vice versa. However, it seems to be his point that that moral reformers wanted to make us less free and that resistence whether organized or spontaneous - especially arising from minorities - enriched the society and gave us freedoms we take for granted. I think people of any political persuasion will find things to disagree with or get ticked off about. And people will have justifiable quibbles, such as just how much say did high-toned moral reformers really have?; and did reformers within minority communities who presented idealized versions of their groups really buy into their own claims? Overall, I learned a lot and the book challenged me and it's a worthwhile read. "

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About the Author

Thaddeus Russell teaches history and cultural studies at Occidental College and has taught at Columbia University, Barnard College, Eugene Lang College, and the New School for Social Research. He received a PhD in history from Columbia University. He is the author of Out of the Jungle, and he has published opinion articles in the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, Salon, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Russell has also appeared on the History Channel and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He lives in Santa Monica, California, with his wife and son.