The Plot Against America: A Contextual Reading List for Teens and Adults

The Plot Against America is now a popular HBO series that many of us are watching. Before Plot was a TV show, it was an international bestselling book written by Philip Roth, a NJ native. Written in 2004, this book is available to borrow as an ebook  and an audiobook with your Livingston library card.

Philip Roth wrote a New York Times article in 2004 entitled  The Story Behind ‘The Plot Against America’ explaining where he got the inspiration for Plot Against America:

“In December of 2000, I was reading the bound proofs of Arthur Schlesinger’s autobiography and found myself especially interested in his description of the events of the late 1930’s and early 1940’s as they impinged on his life as a young man traveling in Europe and then back in Cambridge, Mass…Even before I started school, I already knew something about Nazi anti-Semitism and about the American anti-Semitism that was being stoked, one way or another, by eminent figures like Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh..

“I came upon a sentence in which Schlesinger notes that there were some Republican isolationists who wanted to run Lindbergh for president in 1940. That’s all there was, that one sentence with its reference to Lindbergh and to a fact about him I’d not known. It made me think, “What if they had?” and I wrote the question in the margin. Between writing down that question and the fully evolved book there were three years of work, but that’s how the idea came to me.”

To read the full NYTimes article, visit https://www.livingstonlibrary.org/, scroll down to “Digital Resources,” and click the rectangle that says, “Newspapers and Magazines.” Then click “New York Times (Outside the Library) to link free access to the NYTimes to your account. You will need a Livingston library card and a (free) NYTimes online account to complete this process.

At the end of Plot Against America, Roth includes a postscript with a timeline and documentation on Charles Lindbergh and other historical figures in the book. Some of the antisemetic language used by Lindbergh in the book is pulled from actual speeches by Lindbergh.

To learn more about Charles Lindbergh, read The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming  (Overdrive)

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washingston DC has materials online about the rise of antisemitism in the 1930s and 1940s, and America’s response to antisemitism and the Holocaust. Some USHMM resources include the article How did the United States government and American people respond to Nazism?, the video Confronting the Holocaust: American Responses, and the recent panel Hate and Its Impact: Sowing the Seeds of Global Antisemiticm. For more online resources on the history of antisemitism and how to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity, please visit  https://www.ushmm.org/.

In part II of USHMM’s panel series Hate and Its Impact: Nazi Ideology and Racism in the Jim Crow South, speakers discuss the similarities between the racist ideologies in both Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South. American poet Langston Hughes also noted these similarities in his poem “Beaumont to Detroit: 1943,” which is available in the book The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes, edited by Arnold Rampersad.

Superman joined in the fight against hate in 1946. Superman was created as a comic book character in 1938 by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Jewish boys from Cleveland, Ohio. The Adventures of Superman then became a syndicated radio show and in 1946 Superman became the first US superhero to battle bigotry. To learn more about this, read Superman Versus the Ku Klux Klan: The True Story of How the Iconic Superhero Battled the Men of Hate by Richard Bowers, available as an audiobook on Overdrive/Libby.

To learn more about the history of racism in the US, there is the young reader book Stamped–Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi. This is a remix of the adult books How to Be an Antiracist  and Stamped from the Beginning.

Happening at the same time in the United States was the internment of Japanese Americans. To learn more about this read Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II and George Takei’s graphic novel memoir They Called Us Enemy.

We often learn about the above three histories — WWII and the Holocaust, Jim Crow, and the Japanese Interment — as though they were separate historical events when in fact they are interconnected. Anne Frank and Martin Luther King, Jr. were both born in 1929. Though younger, George Takei, who was born 1937, was ten-years-old when The Diary of Anne Frank was first published and twenty-six-years-old when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington. We have more allies than we think and we can come together to confront hatred and promote human dignity.

Confronting hatred and talking about racism can feel difficult but there are resources to get started:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo: audiobook  | ebook
  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo: ebook

-Anna, Head of Youth Services

Livingston, NJ 07039, USA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.