"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Nonfiction Review: 1919: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA

This National Book Award winner, 1919: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA, shines a spotlight on several events, all happening in 1919, which changed the course of American society: Women getting the vote, The Volsted Act (Prohibition); the 1919 Race Riots; Labor movement and strikes; the Palmer Raids (Red Scare) and oddly, the Molasses Flood (Building standards and safety.)

Home from the Great War society could once again look inward to see if they liked what they had fought for. In many cases, they didn't. Black men, who fought valiantly in the war, returned to racism at home. For the first time, really, blacks decided to fight back. Some people think that 1919 was the great awakening of black America, even though the Civil rights movement was still several decades away.

Women and some men, saw what alcohol was doing to their husbands and families and fought for the temperance movement to eliminate this scourge on society. When the 18th Amendment passed many of the same women shifted their efforts toward gaining the right to vote for women. The 19th Amendment also passed in 1919 granting women the right to vote.

With the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 in Russia, many Americans were afraid that the same thing would happen here. This led to a Red Scare long before the McCarthy era. The Palmer Raids, which rounded up immigrants without any due process became quite popular. The formation of the ACLU came about because of these clearly illegal roundups and deplorable treatment of innocent people. Labor unions were also suspected as being communists so strikes were met with big opposition from city, county, and state governments. But to this date there has never been more strikes, or larger strikes all in one year: 1919.

Prohibition brought on a new form of lawlessness in our country with bootlegging and mobsters becoming very common. The grand/noble experiment lasted for fifteen years before, in 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed which ended prohibition. The lawlessness it brought on is partially blamed for the Black Sox Scandal where the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost the series due to gambling incentives.

And what about the Molasses Flood? Well, that is a weird story from history I've never heard about. In Boston a huge tank, poorly constructed, held millions of gallons of molasses. When it exploded, the river of molasses wrecked houses, the train trestle, and killed many people and animals. What came out of it was stricter housing/building codes and standards.

At the end of each chapter author Martin Sandler compares what was happening the to what is happening today, 100 years later. In a lot of ways what happened in 1919 led to improvements for society but in other ways we are still fighting the same fights, like those related to racism, labor, and voting rights.

What I liked about the book:
  • Each chapter contained some new information to me but not too much to overwhelm. If one wanted to know more some topic there are suggested books to read listed at the back of the book. This book was not intended to give full details on every topic it touched upon.
  • The photographs were great, many live-action shots of whatever was being discussed. All were black and white but that is correct since color film hadn't been invented yet. Photo credits were listed at the back of the book.
  • My favorite part of the book were located at the end of each chapter in sections called "One Hundred Years Later" where Sandler looks at what is happening today on the related topic. He mentions recent legislation, movements, like the #MeTooMovement, even the Muslim Ban enacted by Trump.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • As an adult reading and reviewing a children's book, I wanted more. I wanted more details on all the topics and found my curiosity piqued. I also wondered why this book was chosen for the National Book Award this year. Surely there were better books written for kids, ones they would like to read. Let's see the what the National Book Award committee said...
Martin W. Sandler’s riveting work of nonfiction, 1919 The Year That Changed America, focuses on one year of turbulence and its far-reaching aftermath. Sandler’s evocative language brings 1919 to life for young readers, showing us the impact of that crucial year on major issues like race relations, women’s rights, and climate change. This carefully researched and curated work strikingly demonstrates the interconnected nature of history–as it happens and its rippling consequences for years to come.
  • Well, I guess that explains it. When describes a work as riveting is it any wonder that it won?


  1. This one sounds like it would be good for teens; good photography can really make or break a book.

  2. This sounds like a great one. Many youth(and adults) know so little about history.


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