Synopses & Reviews
You see it everywhere: on bumper stickers, tee shirts, lapel pins, in shop windows, and in front of nearly every school or government building. Yet while the American flag is ubiquitous, as a symbol it is both heavily freighted and misunderstood.
Now an acclaimed European professor of American history brings a fresh perspective to the American flag, exploring its political, social, and cultural significance across the broad swath of its history. Mining a rich vein of materials from history, literature, music, and popular culture, Arnaldo Testi analyzes the symbolic importance of the flag to the national consciousness of this “nation of immigrants” and sees in it the very contradictions that make up our history: secularism and sacredness, freedom and empire, inclusiveness and aggressive self-confidence.
Using sources as diverse as Walt Whitman and Jimi Hendrix, and events as divergent as the American Revolution, the moon landing, and the terrorist attacks of September 11th, Testi reveals the central importance of the flag to the creation of our nation, the evolution of our national character, and the spread of American culture and power across the globe, while illustrating the varied and often conflicting meanings different Americans ascribe to it.
Whether you worship the flag or revile it, respect it or ignore it, Capture the Flag offers the reader a colorful and compelling exploration of the sway it holds on the American imagination.
Milt Gross (1895-1953), a Bronx-born cartoonist and animator, first found fame in the late 1920s, writing comic strips and newspaper columns in the unmistakable accent of Jewish immigrants. By the end of the 1920s, Gross had become one of the most famous humorists in the United States, his work drawing praise from writers like H. L. Mencken and Constance Roarke, even while some of his Jewish colleagues found Gross extreme renderings of Jewish accents to be more crass than comical.
Working during the decline of vaudeville and the rise of the newspaper cartoon strip, Gross captured American humor in transition. Gross adapted the sounds of ethnic humor from the stage to the page and developed both a sound and a sensibility that grew out of an intimate knowledge of immigrant life. His parodies of beloved poetry sounded like reading primers set loose on the Lower East Side, while his accounts of Jewish tenement residents echoed with the mistakes and malapropisms born of the immigrant experience.
Introduced by an historical essay, Is Diss a System? presents some of the most outstanding and hilarious examples of Jewish dialect humor drawn from the five books Gross published between 1926 and 1928—Nize Baby, De Night in de Front from Chreesmas, Hiawatta, Dunt Esk, and Famous Fimmales—providing a fresh opportunity to look, read, and laugh at this nearly forgotten forefather of American Jewish humor.
About the Author
Ari Y. Kelman is an assistant professor of American Studies at University of California, Davis. He is the author of Station Identification: A Cultural History of Yiddish Radio in the United States.