What ties Americans to one another? What unifies a nation of citizens with different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds? These were the dilemmas faced by Americans in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they sought ways to bind the newly United States together. In A is for American, award-winning historian Jill Lepore portrays seven men who turned to language to help shape a new nation’s character and boundaries. From Noah Webster’s attempts to standardize American spelling, to Alexander Graham Bell’s use of “Visible Speech” to help teach the deaf to talk, to Sequoyah’s development of a Cherokee syllabary as a means of preserving his people’s independence, these stories form a compelling portrait of a developing nation’s struggles. Lepore brilliantly explores the personalities, work, and influence of these figures, seven men driven by radically different aims and temperaments. Through these superbly told stories, she chronicles the challenges faced by a young country trying to unify its diverse people.
“Remarkable. I read it at one sitting, mesmerized by the scholarship, the erudition and the elegant simplicity of this story of seven consummately noble American lives, each one of them, as Jill Lepore reveals, a pilgrimage in the grand search for a nation-creating linguistic ideal.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman
“[Lepore] is a terrific storyteller, alert to trenchant details but also able to convey the
connections between events, the sweep of an epoch.”--The New York Times Book Review
“Wonderfully engrossing.” --The Boston Globe
“This is a book to ponder and re-leaf and return to.” --The Times Literary Supplement
“Eloquent. ... Smart and suggestive.”--The New Republic