When I was in AP US History (not bragging,) my mind was blown.
Over the summer, our teacher required that we read Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. I was appalled by all of the “lies” that I had been told. Why was I only learning now, at age 16, that Columbus was maybe not the hero I thought he was?
This idea could be a much longer post about the prevalence of classism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, elitism, the patriarchy etc. in our history books. And maybe I will make that post someday, but this post is about how I learned about important people and important facts that do not often make it into history textbooks. I read about women, BIPOC, queer people, and every one in between, often left out or rewritten in standardized texts. I read about struggles and triumphs. I read about the people who fought, voted, and spoke out. I read about events that became more real to me as I read about a historical figure with thoughts and feelings. Reading history beyond textbooks and beyond school humanized events for me. These “alternative history” books give readers, like me, the emotional connection that a textbook is often lacking.
Ever since my AP US reading days, I have tried to pick up history books that told me more about real people that came before me who I know little about. This summer, I read two: A Queer History of the United States and An Indigenous People’s History of the United States.
Both were engaging and often moving reads. Both of these groups have been (and often still are persecuted) for who they are, but are such important parts of our country and our country’s history. I learned a lot from these texts.
Highly recommend picking up both books or either and expanding your historical knowledge base!