I really love Sarah Vowell, and I really love Lafayette. This goes back to Liberty Kids, a public television show about the American revolution. With terrible animation and a very impressive list of voice actors, this show was incredibly formative to myself and I believe much of my generation. My best friend used to record episodes on VHS. She grew up to be a history major focusing on American history in the 18th century. I don’t think these things are unrelated. Lafayette was one of the stand out characters of the show, and became probably my favorite figure of the American Revolution.
Hamilton, with the gorgeous and talented Daveed Diggs as Lafayette only made this worse. I was listening to Hamilton while I was reading, and reached the battle of Yorktown at the same time in the music and the book, which was such a perfect alignment.
Sarah Vowell spends a whole books explaining why my childhood fascination with Lafayette is all a part of a much bigger thing. He’s been a idol to Americans since immediately after the revolution. She focuses on a trip he took as an older man, touring through the country he helped to liberate, being greeted as a hero. From there it goes all over the place. It is a Sarah Vowell book after all. She wanders through Lafayette’s life and legacy in a very entertaining manner. She looks at the other rag-tag team that made the American revolution happen.
It’s a great book. Very funny, very accessible, I think I learned something. She continues to do a great job at tackling American history, and connecting it to what America is today. Definitely worth your time.