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Thinking about America, inside and out

It strikes me that for a global company we are doing a lot of American subjects these days, between our African American titles and the Libraries We Love, which is focused entirely on U.S. public libraries. (But don’t worry, we have global libraries in mind, too.) This American publishing makes sense, in fact, because one of the things we have long wanted to do, in addition to helping U.S. citizens to understand the world outside our borders, is take a fresh look at the United States.

We have big plans in that direction, with the first two volumes of Global Perspectives on the United States coming next month, and a number of other things in the works.

David and I have been finishing up the introduction to Global Perspectives and I was amazed to discover the historic continuity in Americans’ reaction to criticism. I found these passages in Frances Trollope’s 1832 Domestic Manners of the Americans. She was writing about the reception of an earlier book by Captain Basil Hall and observes:

“. . . one of the most remarkable traits in the national character of the Americans; namely, their exquisite sensitiveness and soreness respecting everything said or written concerning them.. . . Other nations have been called thin-skinned, but the citizens of the Union have, apparently, no skins at all; they wince if a breeze blows over them, unless it be tempered with adulation.”

“So deep is the conviction of this singular people that they cannot be seen without being admired, that they will not admit the possibility that anyone should honestly and sincerely find aught to disapprove in them, or their country.”

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