"Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting" Book Review

Written by James Ferguson

Published by Baylor Press

Written by W. Scott Poole
2011, 228 Pages
Released on October 15th, 2011


It's no secret that America is a little messed up.  Before you get all "He's Anti-American!" on me, relax.  I'm just saying that throughout the country's history, there have been some pretty dark times.  Regardless of the gruesome event, whether it's the Salem Witch Trials back in the 1600s or 9/11 just 10 years ago, one thing remains constant: Americans are obsessed with them.  Just watch any local news program and you'll see what I mean.  It's rarely happy news being reported.  The old newspaper adage still holds true today.  If it bleeds, it reads.  Author W. Scott Poole takes a look at America's fascination with the macabre in his book, Monsters in America: Our Historical Obsession with the Hideous and the Haunting.

Poole drags the reader through the country's sordid past, pulling up things that are glossed over in history books.  We've all studied the Civil War and understand why slavery was abolished in the States, but when you examine some of the reasons why blacks were placed into servitude, it's almost crazy.  People thought that the slaves mated with animals and practiced dark magic.  You'd think if that was the case the slave-owners wouldn't want these heathens in their homes and preparing their food.

Each chapter features several comparisons to movies and television shows from popular culture, drawing parallels between them and events in American history.  This makes some of the material more relatable and easier to digest.  It also helps put some of the events into perspective.  While you might not know much about life in colonial America, if you've seen Wes Craven's The People Under the Stairs, it might help you understand it a little easier.

What I enjoyed most is that Poole doesn't pull his punches when discussing the United States and how its citizens view it.  The country tries to uphold this image of the valiant hero looking out for everyone's well-being but there are quite a few skeletons in its closet.  With all those bones lurking around it's tough to listen to someone when they claim they live in "the greatest country in the world."

Monsters in America is a history book at its core.  Granted it's a book that I would have loved to have had in any history class I've taken, but it can be a little dry at times.  While I haven't read it, I would be interested to see how this compares to Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong as both try to pull the reader out of the haze of blind patriotism and show them what actually happened in America's past.  It's a lot more than just chopping down cherry trees and Yankee Doodle Dandy.



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