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Drinking in America: Our Secret History
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Grand Central Publishing 2015
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In Drinking in America, bestselling author Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation's history. This is the often-overlooked story of how alcohol has shaped American events and the American character from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Seen through the lens of alcoholism, American history takes on a vibrancy and a tragedy missing from many earlier accounts. From the drunkenness of the Pilgrims to Prohibition hijinks, drinking has always been a cherished American custom: a way to celebrate and a way to grieve and a way to take the edge off. At many pivotal points in our history-the illegal Mayflower landing at Cape Cod, the enslavement of African Americans, the McCarthy witch hunts, and the Kennedy assassination, to name only a few-alcohol has acted as a catalyst.
Some nations drink more than we do, some drink less, but no other nation has been the drunkest in the world as America was in the 1830s only to outlaw drinking entirely a hundred years later. Both a lively history and an unflinching cultural investigation, Drinking in America unveils the volatile ambivalence within one nation's tumultuous affair with alcohol.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
10/13/2015
Language:
English
ISBN:
9781455513864, 9781455579426
ASIN:
B00T3E77R8

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APA Citation (style guide)

Susan Cheever. (2015). Drinking in America: Our Secret History. Grand Central Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Susan Cheever. 2015. Drinking in America: Our Secret History. Grand Central Publishing.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Susan Cheever, Drinking in America: Our Secret History. Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Susan Cheever. Drinking in America: Our Secret History. Grand Central Publishing, 2015.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.

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      • bioText: Susan Cheever is the author of the biographies E.E. Cummings, American Bloomsbury, and My Name Is Bill, as well as five novels and four memoirs. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Newsday, among other magazines and anthologies. She has been a Guggenheim Fellow, has been nominated for a National Book Circle Award, and won the Boston Globe Winship medal. She attended Brown University and has taught at many places, including Yale, Brown, Columbia, the New School, and Bennington College.
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In Drinking in America, bestselling author Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation's history. This is the often-overlooked story of how alcohol has shaped American events and the American character from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Seen through the lens of alcoholism, American history takes on a vibrancy and a tragedy missing from many earlier accounts. From the drunkenness of the Pilgrims to Prohibition hijinks, drinking has always been a cherished American custom: a way to celebrate and a way to grieve and a way to take the edge off. At many pivotal points in our history-the illegal Mayflower landing at Cape Cod, the enslavement of African Americans, the McCarthy witch hunts, and the Kennedy assassination, to name only a few-alcohol has acted as a catalyst.
Some nations drink more than we do, some drink less, but no other nation has been the drunkest in the world as America was in the 1830s only to outlaw drinking entirely a hundred years later. Both a lively history and an unflinching cultural investigation, Drinking in America unveils the volatile ambivalence within one nation's tumultuous affair with alcohol.
reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Kirkus Reviews
      • content: A fascinating look at the place and function of alcohol throughout American history...[Cheever] offers a colorful portrait of a society that, like her own family, has been indelibly shaped by its drinking habits. An intelligently argued study of our country's 'passionate connection to drinking.'
      • premium: False
      • source: Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (winner of the Whitbread) and A World on Fire: Britain's Crucial Role in the American Civil War
      • content: Susan Cheever offers a humane but unsentimental view of our nation's inebriated past in DRINKING IN AMERICA. To excuse the pun, it's an addictive read full of wit and verve, revealing the deep influence of alcohol on many of our country's most significant moments, from the landing at Plymouth Harbour, to the Kennedy Assassination and Watergate. This is terrific social history but not as it's usually told, and all the better for it.
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly
      • content: Cheever's central observation is fascinating...The melting pot, it seems, was also a mixing bowl.
      • premium: False
      • source: Shelf Awareness
      • content: Insightful...well-researched and well-developed...An engrossing, in-depth examination of the profound ways alcohol and drinking have shaped and contributed to American history.
      • premium: False
      • source: Judy Collins
      • content: I can't stop raving (soberly!) about Susan Cheever's new book... It is both enlightening and frightening. A brilliant and important addition to our understanding of what goes wrong and what can continue to go wrong in a world dominated by the most deadly legal liquid ever invented.
      • premium: False
      • source: Los Angeles Review of Books
      • content: Compelling...[a] brisk drinker's companion to US history, which runs a black light over the archives to ask: who was loaded, and why did it matter?... It's the fourth of Wilson's famous 12 steps that made it common practice for sober folk to dig into their own pasts in order to articulate the role of alcohol - to create a 'searching and fearless moral inventory' - and with DRINKING IN AMERICA, Cheever submits the US to a similar investigation. Along the way, we see a country struggling to negotiate its freedoms, nurtured by alcohol and undone by it as well....This approach can be illuminating, turning those sepia-toned historical figures in wigs into uncertain young men with tankards of rum in their hands.
      • premium: False
      • source: Associated Press
      • content: Cheever serves up a sober cocktail of American history...offers up sideways views that are intriguing.
      • premium: False
      • source: Buffalo News
      • content: Full of compelling ideas...Cheever is smart, perceptive and disciplined...Her Nixon chapter in particular is alternately horrifying and delightful, and paints a compelling picture of the monstrous complexity of a 'great man.'
      • premium: False
      • source: The San Francisco Chronicle
      • content: Vivid...some of the book's most affecting moments arrive when Cheever discusses her family's drinking problems.
      • premium: False
      • source: Women's Voices for Change
      • content: Full of fascinating details...this book is an important and highly entertaining step in the right direction.
      • premium: False
      • source: Kansas City Star
      • content: Cheever addresses serious subjects with casual and at times humorous prose, making this book surprisingly fun to read. You won't find this booze-filled version of American history in any textbooks, but as with any good barroom conversation, you'll learn just as much.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Palm Beach Post
      • content: Packed with the liquor-soaked legacy of our country...[Cheever] presents a chronicle of the United States that has, to my knowledge, never been attempted. And it is a riveting, revisionist take on so many great events and people...fascinating, unusual history.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Bookworm Sez
      • content: Goes down like a smooth glass of wine after a long day...Whether you're a drinker or a teetotaler, if you like a wee nip of history, then here's the book you want.
      • premium: False
      • source: San Antonio Express-News
      • content: A highly readable, in-your-face look at not only the destructive power of alcohol in America, but the strange way it shaped our history.
      • premium: False
      • source: Toronto Star
      • content: If you're looking for a sobering introduction to drunk history, this is the book for you.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Oklahoman
      • content: At once fascinating and slightly disturbing.
      • premium: False
      • source: Midwest Book Review
      • content: DRINKING IN AMERICA at times has many shocking revelations of the role alcohol has played in our country that is a great addition to the legends of this nation.
      • premium: False
      • source: The Portland Mercury
      • content: This is Drunk History, but thoroughly researched and soberly elucidated.
      • premium: False
      • source: Boston Globe
      • content: Cheever lays bare something many of us know intimately: 'alcoholism is a family disease,' she writes, and
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        August 10, 2015
        In this whimsical history, author Cheever (My Name Is Bill) examines four centuries of America’s dysfunctional relationship with booze. Her story opens with the Pilgrims landing at Cape Cod “because they were running out of beer” and ends with the ascension of Alcoholics Anonymous. Cheever focuses on the role that giggle juice played in central events of U.S. history, including the Revolutionary War, westward expansion, the Civil War, Prohibition, and the Red Scare. She also highlights important figures in the history of drinking, including John Adams (and his family), Ethan Allen, Ulysses Grant, and her own father, John Cheever. Cheever’s central observation is fascinating: “few historians even mention drinking and its effect... on events,” an oversight she strives to correct. Yet some of her suppositions feel weak: that the Revolutionary War might not have happened if the colonists hadn’t been such partyers; that the Civil War might have been lost if Grant’s drinking hadn’t been tolerated; that Kennedy might not have been assassinated if his Secret Service team hadn’t been so hungover. Cheever is at her most fascinating when she sticks to facts: for example, in 1820 the average consumption of alcohol was three times what it is today, and children were sent off to elementary school fortified by ”flip,” a mixture of fruit juice and grain alcohol. The melting pot, it seems, was also a mixing bowl.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        July 15, 2015
        A distinguished biographer and cultural historian offers a fascinating look at the place and function of alcohol throughout American history. Cheever (E.E. Cummings: A Life, 2014, etc.) begins with a compelling premise: that "drinking and taverns have been as much a part of American life as churches and preachers, or elections and politics." When the Pilgrims made their long and dangerous voyage to America in 1620, beer was crucial to their well-being; when it began to run out, beer became the reason why they landed in Massachusetts rather than Northern Virginia. George Washington owned and operated his own distillery. During his time as a commander of the Continental Army, he "helped his soldiers fight by getting them a little drunk," unwittingly beginning a tradition that wedded alcohol to military endeavors that continues to this day. Alcohol-and in particular, rum-also became tied to the Colonial economy through slavery. By the end of the revolutionary era, two distinct attitudes toward tippling had emerged: that it was "a gift from God" but that its result, drunkenness, was "a curse from the devil." While individuals began preaching temperance in the 1800s, alcoholism began to leave its ugly genetic legacy in many highly respected American families, including Cheever's own. The anti-alcohol crusades of the 19th century led to Prohibition in the 1920s. But rather than "make the country healthy...it made them sick" while increasing the crime it was supposed to eradicate. When drink became legal again under Franklin Roosevelt, writers such as Ernest Hemingway and the author's father, John Cheever, "made up for the generations before and after them" by drinking to excess while creating an enduring, and poisonous, link between writing and alcohol. As implicated as she is in the history of drinking in America, Cheever does not condemn it. Instead, she offers a colorful portrait of a society that, like her own family, has been indelibly shaped by its drinking habits. An intelligently argued study of our country's "passionate connection to drinking."

        COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        October 1, 2015
        American attitudes toward boozing, Cheever says, have oscillated like a pendulum, beginning in a swing toward toping when the Pilgrims landed because they were out of beer. Swilling burgeoned beyond population growth until, in the 1820s, the U.S. was the drunkest nation on earth. Then came the reverse swing, culminating in Prohibition, the criminal bad consequences of which sent public opinion back to the bottle. Now, thanks to the effectiveness of AA and MADD, the U.S. is again censorious and legally restrictive of drinking. An accomplished novelist and biographer, Cheever tells the back-and-forth history of her subject in a stream of stories about and observations by famous people, including colonial leaders, three generations of John Adams' family, Meriwether Lewis, and Ulysses S. Grant and other Civil War figures. This is all very readable, but there should be more. The chapter covering 18661919the upswing to Prohibitionis only three pages long; the WCTU and Carrie Nation are barely mentioned, the influential Prohibition Party isn't mentioned at all. Such short shrifting makes the chapter on sodden mid-twentieth-century authors seem tacked on.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2015, American Library Association.)

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        June 1, 2015

        Cheever's work ranges from fiction to memoir to her recent E.E. Cummings: A Life. But here's a book she seems destined to write, as she has been forthright about the battle that both she and her father, John Cheever, have fought with alcohol. Moving from a tipsy George Washington to alcohol as ingrained social custom to its impact on health and health-care policy today; with a 35,000-copy first printing.

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        October 1, 2015

        The premise of Cheever's (American Bloomsbury) latest is compelling--how has America's on-again, off-again obsession with alcohol affected some of the major turning points in the nation's history? And it's a fun journey to take with Cheever, whose breezy writing style is entertaining and informed by her own publicly acknowledged struggles with addiction and a famous alcoholic parent. However, it may be a tad too breezy. Cheever often asserts rather than persuades; her repeated speculations about the motivations of people long dead do not make an entirely convincing argument. Determined to see U.S. history through the lens of drink, that is indeed what she finds. Still, there are some real surprises here, including indications that John F. Kennedy's secret service detail had been drinking heavily the night before the assassination, which may have affected their reaction time, and that an important reason the pilgrims stayed in Plymouth, rather than venturing down to Virginia as planned, was the fear that the Mayflower would run out of beer on the journey home. VERDICT For those looking for an enjoyable survey of the subject but who are willing to overlook inconsistencies in the author's argument.--Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

        Copyright 2015 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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In Drinking in America, bestselling author Susan Cheever chronicles our national love affair with liquor, taking a long, thoughtful look at the way alcohol has changed our nation's history. This is the often-overlooked story of how alcohol has shaped American events and the American character from the seventeenth to the twentieth century.
Seen through the lens of alcoholism, American history takes on a vibrancy and a tragedy missing from many earlier accounts. From the drunkenness of the Pilgrims to Prohibition hijinks, drinking has always been a cherished American custom: a way to celebrate and a way to grieve and a way to take the edge off. At many pivotal points in our history-the illegal Mayflower landing at Cape Cod, the enslavement of African Americans, the McCarthy witch hunts, and the Kennedy assassination, to name only a few-alcohol has acted as a catalyst.
Some nations drink more than we do, some drink less, but no other nation has been the...
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