America (The Book)

America (The Book)

infobox Book |
name = America (The Book):
A Citizen's Guide to
Democracy Inaction

title_orig =
translator =

author = Jon Stewart
Ben Karlin
David Javerbaum
Samantha Bee
Rich Blomquist
Steve Bodow
Tim Carvell
Stephen Colbert
Rob Corddry
Eric Drysdale
Ed Helms
Chris Regan
cover_artist =
country = USA
language = English
series =
genre = Humor
publisher = Warner Books
release_date = September 2004
media_type =
pages = 227
isbn = ISBN 0-446-53268-1
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" is a 2004 non-fiction bestseller written by Jon Stewart and other writers of "The Daily Show" that parodies and satirizes American politics and worldview. It has won several awards, and generated some controversy.


"America (The Book)" was written and edited by Jon Stewart, Ben Karlin, David Javerbaum, and other writers of "The Daily Show". Karlin was the show's executive producer and Javerbaum its head writer. The book is written as a parody of a U.S. high school civics textbook, complete with study guides, questions, and class exercises. Its inside front cover is even "stamped" with a template (familiar to any student of American public schools) with the heading "THIS BOOK IS THE PROPERTY OF" and lines within a section marked "ISSUED TO" where the reader could write his or her name, the year, and the condition of the book when issued and when returned. The stamp also added, "We are fully aware that Dick Hertz, I.P. Freely and Heywood Jablome are not real people, so please exclude them." Also included are scholarly "Were You Aware?" boxes, one of which explains that "the term 'Did You Know' is copyrighted by a rival publisher". The book even provides discussion questions to mock history study guide books, with ridiculous questions such as: "Would you rather be a king or slave? Why or why not?" It pokes fun at the American political system and its flaws, including as a "class activity" the suggestion to "Disenfranchise a black student", and includes a chapter caricaturing stereotypical American views of the rest of the world.

People affiliated with the Daily Show such as Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and Ed Helms often contribute small articles relevant to the topic at hand. Samantha Bee's articles refer to the Canadian view point on topics, such as "We have media in Canada, too!" Stephen Colbert gives heavily biased viewpoints on topics such as Warren G. Harding, who is often seen as America's worst president. Ed Helms gives only two articles both stating what he would do if afforded certain positions of power and referencing the death of a specific individual for reasons known to him but never revealed to the reader.

The eagle on the cover of the book was a live bird, not stuffed. This was done because live eagles are easier to come across than stuffed ones. Alternate photos included in the book, however, reveal that the bird was not, in fact, a bald eagle, but a golden eagle, photoedited to make its head appear white.

One page contains mock campaign stickers for various candidates. These include "Lifelong Democrat Retired Palm Beach Jews for Buchanan" and "Undecided Voters for Candidate". One of the most notable has (in large print) "Humphrey in '68" and then in much smaller print "Because otherwise, in four years, Nixon's boys will be caught breaking into the Watergate office trying to sabotage their opponents, creating unprecedented scandal and ushering in an era of cynicism that will shape politics for decades to come. Call it a hunch. Again, Humphrey in '68".

Appearing shortly before the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the book originally included several pages of an "Election Guide" making fun of both candidates. Printings of the book made after the election do not have this insert.

"Publishers Weekly" (PW) chose it as its "Book of the Year"; it noted that "in a year defined by political polemics, it seems fitting that PW's Book of the Year be one in which the authors survey the entire political system and laugh." The audio book version won the Grammy Award in 2005 for "Best Comedy Album." The book, published in September 2004, remained a bestseller even after the election.

In addition to "America (The Audiobook)", it has also spun off into "America (The Calendar)". A paperback version was released in 2006 as a "Teacher's Edition"," featuring a revised set of Supreme Court Justices (including Samuel Alito and John Roberts, who were appointed after the book's publication), and "fact checking" by a "real scholar," with red marks and annoyed messages appearing throughout, questioning the validity of the book's assertions. This scholar is Stanley K. Shultz, who teaches history at the University of Wisconsin.


In Chapter 5, "America (The Book)" contains obviously-doctored photographs with the heads of then-current U.S. Supreme Court justices superimposed on appropriately aged naked bodies (taken from photos on a nudist website). An adjacent page invites the reader to cover each justice with a cutout of his or her robe to "restore their dignity". Some organizations found the images offensive and refused to carry the book. In a "USA Today" article, a Wal-Mart spokeswoman is quoted as saying the retailer canceled its order for "America (The Book)" because it "felt a majority of our customers would not be comfortable with the image".cite web|url=|title=Behind the robes, Stewart finds controversy|publisher=USA Today|author=Minzesheimer, Bob|date=2004-10-19|accessdate=2008-08-20] (The "Teacher's Edition" fired back, including a Wal-Mart "quote" reading "Even better on second banning!") Some Mississippi public libraries removed the book from their shelves; the ban was lifted the day after its issue because the library board had received numerous complaints.cite news|url=|title=Mississippi Library Board Puts Stewart's Best Selling "America (The Book)" Back on Shelves|date=2005-01-11|publisher=Associated Press|accessdate=2008-07-25]

Cartoonist Bruce Tinsley's objection to the book's "Mallard Fillmore" parody, which appears among six other backdated cartoon parodies, and found its way into the actual comic's July 5-8, 2005 editions. The title character states that Jon Stewart "tried to deceive people into thinking" that the book's phony "Fillmore" was a real one by putting a past date (October 1, 1998) next to the fake strip. [ [ Mallard Fillmore ] ] Stewart retaliated in the "Teacher's Edition" by having the "real scholar" note that although it is not a real Mallard Fillmore strip, it has about the same level of humor.

Some Asian-American organizations criticized the book for a section called the "Color By Numbers Senate" which claimed that every US senator as of 2004 was white.Fact|date=April 2008 In fact, Asian-Americans Daniel Akaka and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii were both senators in 2004. In addition, Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado, who is of Native American descent, was a senator until he retired in 2005. Historically, the Senate has had at least one non-white member every session since 1959, when Hiram Fong was elected as one of Hawaii's first two senators.

Table of contents

* Study Guide
* Foreword: by Thomas Jefferson
* Ch. 1: Democracy Before America
* Ch. 2: The Founding of America
* Ch. 3: The President: King of Democracy
* Ch. 4: Congress: of Freedom
* Ch. 5: The Judicial Branch: It Rules
* Ch. 6: Campaigns and Elections: America Changes the Sheets
* Ch. 7: The Media: Democracy's Guardian Angels (retitled two pages later as "The Media: Democracy's Valiant Vulgarians")
* Ch. 8: The Future of Democracy: Four Score and Seven Years from Now
* Ch. 9: The Rest of the World: International House of Horrors
* Afterword
* Acknowledgments
* Credits
* Election 2004 (bonus section not listed in Table of Contents and not included in post-election printings)

Cultural impact

Denise Dresser and Jorge Volpi co-wrote "Mexico, lo que todo ciudadano quisiera (no) saber de su patria" [México: Nuevo Siglo Aguilar, 2006. ISBN 9707704012.] ("Mexico, what every citizen would like [not] to know about his homeland"). The book is heavily based on Stewart's book. Jon Stewart is thanked in the book "for giving the authors the idea".

ee also

* Parody
* Sarcasm
* I Am America (And So Can You!)


External links

* [ Behind the robes, Stewart finds controversy] , from "USA Today"


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