Only In America

the French in America

The French in America
In America Series

Submitter: I present to you the “In America” series.  Most are from the 1960’s, although a few were revised around 1980.  The content isn’t so bad, except it’s outdated – The Puerto Ricans in America was written about the same time as West Side Story, and The Mexicans in America is the – OMG!!! – REVISED edition, copyright 1969!!!  Also, observe the list of titles:  I’m pretty damn sure we shouldn’t keep a book with The Negro or The Jews in huge letters on the spine.

My favorite thing about them is the back cover, where it asks, “Who are these people?”  I mean, I ask the same question every time a car with Quebec plates cuts me off in traffic… but I don’t think I mean it the same way the book does.

[Or is this] the most awful part of this awful series?  Prepare yourself – what you will see in the picture [below] will be a shock – you are about to find out that Russians and Jews are exactly the same.

Holly: Books about cultures should be kept current so that terminology is not offensive, for sure.  There are lots of beautiful culture books available that include a history of how/why/when they came to America, but which are more respectful (especially of their diversity! Geez, you think they could  come up with a different picture for The Russians and The Jews!).


  1. In their defense, “The Jews” and “The Russians” were *sometimes* the same people, particularly in the first couple decades of the 20th century.

  2. I don’t understand why a book titled “Jews in America” would be offensive; they’re a legitimate ethnic group, are they not? Would “The Jewish in America” be better?

    Interesting (and off-putting for some reason) that “Negro” is kept in the singular; it’s not “Negroes in America”.

  3. @Lihtox – I really think it’s the “The” that makes it offensive, both for The Jews and The Negro. Either way, it could get a lot MORE offensive in the hands of a sixteen-year-old boy – as could any ethnic group, with the The. Better to title it, say, “Dutch Immigrants in America,” or simply “Dutch Americans”. It sounds less… accusatory?

  4. In fact, numerous Jewish immigrants to the New World were Lithuanians. Unknown to most people is the fact that Lithuania used to be a gigantic state in Eastern Europe whose power and influence were far more important than those of Russia – until, in the late 18th century, Russia took the advantage and Lithuania encountered its own downfall. Lithuanian capital Vilnius was dubbed the “Jerusalem of Northern Europe”. Many of the Lithuanian Jews then fled Russian persecutions, and later, German persecutions.

    Therefore, a “Lithuanians in America” would be an interesting book indeed.

    So, about the French… Robert La Folette and Jackie Kennedy are great, but I would have put Lafayette on the cover too, if only to irritate the American Francophobes – and you get a bonus when you put forth P.T.C Beauregard…

    Thus being said, I don’t really care about the French since I’m an evil Belgian – but we also deserve a book you know : Peter Minuit, founder of NYC, was a Belgian Walloon. I heard there is a community in the USA where the Walloon dialect is spoken, in Michigan or Minnesotta.

  5. How about ‘The Right to Bear Arms, or: Unnecessary Weaponry in America’?

    Presumably the Jews and Russians are all women with headscarves because that picture was taken at Ellis Island and supposed to show generic immigrants. It is possible that they were all Jewish women escaping some jolly pogrom of the early 20th Century.

  6. I love the title THE AMERICAN INDIAN IN AMERICA. Where else would American Indians be–in the Ukraine?

  7. I’m so used to weeding books about Native culture that have anything with the word Indian that I find those two volumes at the top of the list weirdly refreshing.

  8. Fantasio, there’s small town in Iowa on the Mississippi that are Walloon settlements. I’ve driven through them, they’re south of Dubuque. If you are interested perhaps you would like to perform a Google search on them.

  9. Oh the joys and sorrows of a collage cover. I shared this with two book designers at work. There was a collective cringe, in particular the intersection of JJ Audubon, Jackie Kennedy, and the guys on the bottom. Eeek. It might make sense if the explorer type is trying to take over the territory of the other three.

  10. I don’t know how many of these weeded books end up being sent abroad, but a few years ago I found discarded copies of “The Negroes in America,” “Famous Negroes Sport Stars” and “Famous Negro Scientists” in a book sale at my school in China … thereby sustaining years more of uncomfortable mistakes when foreign students go to study in the US …

  11. Oh thanks a lot Cheryl, that’s the place I was looking for 🙂 I will be crossing the USA next summer so I’ll definitely go there and meet some of the American Walloons.

  12. Does anybody knows who’s the older French at the bottom-right corner of the sleeve ?

    And also, Jack Kerouac is missing.

  13. Fantasio: I was going to suggest the person in the bottom right was Samuel de Champlain, but the clothing looks as if it’s from a much earlier era.

  14. When I saw the link “Talking to the Help,” I thought of Karen Walker on Will and Grace. “Blue collar, white collar. They don’t even mix in the WASH.”

  15. Holy cow. I’m a Jewish Canadian in my 30s whose family is originally from Poland, but I still dress like that in the winter! I’m not kidding!

  16. LB — As a tribal librarian, please let me say that you don’t have to weed everything with the word “Indian” in it! “American Indian,” “Indian,” or “Native American” are all OK, though the individual nations’ names are preferred whenever possible. I think the activists gave up trying to change it – to quote Russell Means, “[we’ll be ‘Indians’ until we’ve gotten our rights] and then we’ll call ourselves whatever we damn well please.” I would weed oddities like ‘Amerind,’ though, because they were (thankfully) short-lived, and thus dated. A better criteria would be to prefer things written by Native authors whenever possible: Bruchac, Sneve, Hogan, et cetera.

  17. In defense of the covers of Jews in America and Russians in America, I work for the company that published these books (though not in the editorial department). The founder of the company is the descendant of Jewish immigrants from Moldova so it was no great leap to think of them as one and the same. The In America series has been reissued but Jews in America is not among them.

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