In the introduction to her Rodeo Queens and the American Dream (Perseus, 320 pages, $26.00), Joan Burbick writes: “Telling the stories of rodeo queens necessarily raises the history of settlement and conquest, ethnic conflict, racism, blindness and greed.” So does telling the story of anything else if you’re a professor of American studies, which Burbick is at Washington State University. As she describes her experiences traveling the rodeo circuit and interviewing queens past and present, the author makes many incisive observations about Western history and myth. And during breaks in the how-I-wrote-this-book format, she gives some of the queens a welcome chance to speak for themselves.
A fellow editor’s note attached to our copy of Liberty for All (Miller Publishing, 240 pages, $60.00), a generously illustrated book about the Statue of Liberty, reads: “Would we be interested in this for ‘History Now’? It has really good pictures.” Indeed it has, including a set of models for alternative designs by the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a World War I artillery shell with an image of the statue carved into it, and an eerie 1946 souvenir postcard that pairs Lady Liberty with a picture of the liberated Dachau concentration camp. The book also contains hundreds of shots of the statue taken by the photographer Peter B. Kaplan before, during, and after its 1980s reconstruction, all accompanied by a text from Lee lacocca.
A left-wing friend of ours recently asserted that the September 11 attacks had “taken back the flag from the conservalives.” Astute analysis, or a lame excuse for being embarrassed to admit that you love your country? Either way, it shows the emotion that can attach to a simple piece of cloth. As Robert E. Bonner shows in Colors and Blood: Flag Passions of the Confederate South (Princeton University Press, 223 pages, $29.95), such matters achieved near-mystical status during the Civil War, when many seceding states adopted singlestar flags to symbolize their departure from the Union (and inspired Harry Macarthy to write his anthem “The Bonnie Blue Flag"). Even after the war, in 1867, when the Confederate naval hero Raphael Semmes was given an American flag, he embraced it but vowed to remove all its associations with Republicanism, not long after a black clergyman had rejoiced that “the nation’s great emblem is no longer against us.”