Democracy Awakening: Notes on the State of America by Heather Cox Richardson. She's a noted historian, accomplished nonfiction author (How the South Won the Civil War, among others), and a professor of history at Boston College. But over the past four years, Heather Cox Richardson has also become one of this country's most consequential political commentators. And with the publication this week of Democracy Awakening, which explains how rich and powerful people have waged war on American ideals, she will soon become one of the country's bestselling authors as well.
For those of you who are not familiar with this plain-speaking and remarkably informed woman, here's a bit of background. In the midst of the impeachment crisis of 2019, Richardson launched a daily Facebook essay providing the historical background of the daily torrent of news. The response was immediate and overwhelming, leading her to create a daily newsletter on Substack, an online subscription network for independent writers and creators. She describes Letters From an American as "a newsletter about the history behind today's politics. Readership currently sits at more than 2 million.
In her new work, Richardson starts with this premise - that over the decades, a small group of wealthy people have weaponized language and promoted false history in order to create a disaffected population, then promised to recreate an imagined past where those people could feel important again. In a Letters From An American column last June, she offered more details about the book:
"In 30 short chapters in three sections for a total of 250 pages of text, it tries to explain how we got to this political moment…and how we get out. There is a lot of material in it you all will recognize—on the Trump years, for example, and how we got to them and how we got through them—but there is a lot that is new, too, reflecting how the last several years have made me reconceive the way I think about the meaning of history. In the end, this book makes an argument for a new understanding of U.S. history as an explicitly democratic history, kept alive primarily by marginalized Americans who have worked to expand our rights and bring the principles of the Declaration of Independence to life."
"A fresh historical interpretation of American democracy and its many challenges...It’s an unusual but effective structure, allowing Richardson to do what she does best: show her readers how history and the present are in constant conversation. Reminding us that 'how it comes out rests…in our own hands,' Richardson empowers us for the chapters yet to come." — Kirkus *Starred Review*