Mavericks, Mystics, and Misfits: Americans Against the Grain takes readers on a journey across American history, from the colonial period to the present, through the life stories of exceptional men and women who have responded in unconventional ways to the challenges and circumstances of their time and place.
The journey begins in Puritan New England, where the country’s roots were planted. It then visits America’s war of independence, before following the path of westward migration. It explores the struggle over slavery and the impact of the industrial revolution on the quality of American life. Chapters on the twentieth century take up the issues of war, alienation, and social inequity that haunt the American dream. The journey ends as we wrestle with the challenge of climate change and its implications for our economic system and agriculture.
The cast of characters reflects the diversity of the people who make up the American melting pot: Northern Europeans, Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians, and Native Americans. Although these individuals represent widely varying cultural traditions and beliefs, they share a commitment to upholding the promise of liberty, equality, and opportunity that the New World held out to the Old. Their life stories, though often at variance with the direction of the mainstream society around them, exhibit certain enduring qualities of the American character—courage, experimentation, creativity, independence, compassion—qualities that make them exemplars.
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