1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution & Change – edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti


  1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution & Change – edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, Candlewick, 9781536208733, 2020 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Hardcover

What did you like about the book?  Much as they did in their earlier volume focused on 1968, Aronson and Bartoletti have assembled a collection of nonfiction stars to write about another revolutionary year. In sections entitled Exhilaration, Abomination, Inspiration and Conclusions, essays from Tanya Lee Stone, Cynthia and Sanford Levinson, and Steve Sheinkin (among others) set the historical record straight and trace the connections between these formative 1789 events and the present day. Obvious chronological milestones are included, such as the French Revolution and the adoption of the U.S. Constitution. But the lens for both of these familiar events is new; for the upheaval in France, Stone focuses on the role of women, specifically, the fishwives, while the Levinsons address who’s not counted in the new nation’s government. Other events I’d heard of, like the famous misadventures of the Bounty, but Sheinkin’s lively retelling puts the mutiny into the larger framework of 1789’s unrest and rebellion. Lesser known histories, such as the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a slave narrative that had a powerful impact on the abolitionist movement, and the story of Mary Jemison, a Seneca elder, that document her survival, are also included. The book includes a few black-and-white period illustrations, a copious amount of quotes from primary sources, extensive source and author notes, a bibliography and an index.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The content is fascinating and well-written. I did wonder if students would pick up the book. I think 1968, somewhat fresher in the collective historical memory, would be the more enticing (though not more important) year. 

To whom would you recommend this book?  Readers interested in a contemporary re-framing of these important events. Even adults will find this slim volume informative and a good read. Seeing them collated this way together and focusing on the year as the connecting thread was illuminating. Definitely of high value for reports or research.

Who should buy this book? Middle, high school or public libraries.

Where would you shelve it? 909.7 

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? If you’re interested in world history.

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: November 23, 2020

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