Book Review: A History of US (Vol. 1): The First Americans

“It is always easy to do and thinks as everyone else does. And here we are, at one of the most important reasons for studying history: to learn from the mistakes of others” (98). So writes Joy Hakim in her first installment of an 11-book series called A History of US. In the chapter quoted, Hakim goes on to ask, “[The explorers] meant to do good. Many people told them they were doing good. Does that excuse them? Does it make a difference to the victim? Is it right to force others to believe as you do? Is it possible?” (99).

These are heady questions for any reader, but the fact that they are posed in language that a 9-year old can comprehend makes this an incredibly thoughtful, rigorous, and important US History text.

In A History of US: The First Americans, readers will find unbiased, white-wash-free accounts of the people and places of United States history from prehistory to 1600. Though sure to disappoint teachers in search of textbooks that perfectly align to state standards, broken down into chapters and sections and subsections with an accompanying set of worksheets, this book is an incredible resource for any history classroom dedicated to authentic historical work.

The First Americans is broken into 39 article-style chapters, each of which is rife images of primary sources. In every chapter, Hakim invites curiosity, discussion, and even debate–in other words, this material encourages the flow of the lifeblood of any history classroom.

In the book’s initial chapter, “Why History?”, Hakim reveals her book’s theme:

I believe the United States of America is the most remarkable nation that has ever existed. No other nation, in the history of the world, has ever provided so much freedom, so much justice, and so much opportunity to so many people.

Characteristically, Hakim immediately follows her theme by saying, “That is a big statement. You don’t have to agree with it. Arguing with a book’s theme is okay” (10).

Because of its constant invitation to debates, its honest look at history, its probing questions, its quality prose, and its extensive use of primary documents, I will be heavily drawing from and promoting this book in my ninth grade humanities classroom.


Tim Keller Video Notes — “Researching Your City”

In a short Q & A video, a church planter asks Tim Keller to discuss how one can learn the cultural narrative of his or her city. This can be applied on a larger scale–to one’s state or nation–and on a smaller scale–to one’s workplace or family. Here is Keller’s response:

  • You can start by studying it’s history. It’s amazing how much the history of your city continues to play itself out. NYC for example was started just to make money. Boston was started by the Puritans, who had an ideal. Pennsylvania was started by the Quakers, who had an ideal. Almost every other colony was started by people who had an ideal of what a human community should look like, but NYC was started strictly to make money. Period. And it’s still playing itself out.
  • As well as history, you should also talk to urban planners and anthropologists to understand the people groups inside your community.
The more we understand the people with whom we work and live, the more we are able to minister the gospel to them with compassion and understanding.