One semester in college, for reasons I can no longer recall, I took a course on the Ancien Régime. We read philosophy, literature, and political tracts from the period, and pretty much the only thing I remember was going to the professor’s office hours a week before the midterm to confess that I didn’t understand the course at all. Almost all of the readings were in French, and although I could translate them, I didn’t see how they fit together. We seemed to be going in circles. Wasn’t history supposed to go from Point A to Point B?
This was the same professor to whom I’d confessed a year earlier that I couldn’t understand why Virgil kept appearing in our French language lab exercises, even in sentences about bicycles, such as, “The boy pedaled home, Virgule, and then he ate dinner.” I was baffled.
It turns out that “virgule” means “comma” in French.
So a year later when I went to office hours, Professor Gossman smiled patiently and explained that we were “going in circles” because we were focusing exclusively on this period and examining it from numerous angles. It sounds really obvious now, but at the time I guess I was a little dense and had never been taught history in this way before. History had always been a blur, a speedy race peppered with random headlines and famous people. In high school, it seemed like we were constantly in a rush and yet never made it past World War II.
Anyway, all of this is to say that FLAPPER: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made America Modern is a bit like that Ancien Régime course except easier to follow (and written in English). It’s a series of stories about key players in the 1920s, particularly those involved with the Flapper movement, and along the way it reveals how much life changed for men and women in that period as a result of inventions and new ideas.
In short, it’s a good read, and high school teachers should definitely consider using it. (PS, many thanks to Casey Kapalko for this recommendation!)