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 Today we're excited to chat with Kenneth C Davis author of

Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy.

Read on for more about Kenneth and his book, plus a giveaway!

 

 

 

Meet Kenneth C Davis!

Kenneth C. Davis is best known as the New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned  and America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation. Davis’s new work is Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy. It will be released on October 6 by Holt/Macmillan. Find out more about Davis and his work at dontknowmuch.com    

 

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Meet Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy!

From the bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About® books comes a dramatic account of the origins of democracy, the history of authoritarianism, and the reigns of five of history's deadliest dictators.

What makes a country fall to a dictator? How do authoritarian leaders—strongmen—capable of killing millions acquire their power? How are they able to defeat the ideal of democracy? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

By profiling five of the most notoriously ruthless dictators in history—Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein—Kenneth C. Davis seeks to answer these questions, examining the forces in these strongmen’s personal lives and historical periods that shaped the leaders they’d become. Meticulously researched and complete with photographs, Strongman provides insight into the lives of five leaders who callously transformed the world and serves as an invaluable resource in an era when democracy itself seems in peril.

"Strongman is a book that is both deeply researched and deeply felt, both an alarming warning and a galvanizing call to action, both daunting and necessary to read and discuss." —Cynthia Levinson, author of Fault Lines in the Constitution

 

 

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~ Author Chat ~

 This interview was conducted with Ken by Joann Davis.

 

Kenneth C. Davis is best known as the New York Times bestselling author of Don’t Know Much About History: Everything You Need to Know About American History but Never Learned  and America’s Hidden History: Untold Tales of the First Pilgrims, Fighting Women, and Forgotten Founders Who Shaped a Nation. Davis’s new work is Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy. It will be released on October 6 by Holt/Macmillan. Find out more about Davis and his work at dontknowmuch.com    

 


Hello Kenneth C. Davis. You speak to young people all the time about American History and Civics. What’s your impression of the young people with whom you engage?

 

Kids get a very bad rap for being disinterested and misinformed about history and politics, but in my experience, they are anything but. And, as we all know, they are taking the lead around the world, on many issues, from climate change and gun violence to Black Lives Matter and racial justice. 

 

Several years ago, I began “Skyping to School.” I wanted to talk about some of the important stories our schoolbooks leave out—I call it “hidden history.” Like the fact that some of our most famous presidents enslaved people by the hundreds. Or that our nation was “conceived in liberty,” but born in shackles. I began on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and have since made between 400 and 500 virtual visits to classrooms and talked with thousands of students.  

 

The more I talked to kids, mostly in middle school and high school, the more excited I became by these conversations. These students were not only curious, engaged, interested, and concerned about the big questions of history. They cared about civics and democracy. They want to know their rights. They took an interest in activism. And most important, they asked good, hard questions.

 

One student asked me why they can have a license to drive a car but are not old enough to vote. And that turned my head. Let’s talk about that. Why not?

 

And let’s be honest—we have to include young people and students in the conversation. Because the future is theirs.

 

Who are your personal heroes in history?

 

Two of my first heroes were Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy. When I was 14 in 1968, they were both gunned down. Both men were breathtaking and inspiring leaders who dared to speak about civil rights and poverty. They inspired me to think about how we have to dream and act to improve the lives of others. They challenged young people especially to make a difference. In 1968, I couldn’t vote, but I began to find ways to voice my opinions. I wrote letters to the newspaper —the first thing I ever wrote to be published was a letter to my hometown newspaper, The Daily Argus. It was on the topic of student athletics.  A few years later, I walked out of school with a lot of other kids to protest the Vietnam War.

 

I also have deep admiration for another hero, the late John Lewis, who I was lucky to meet. Lewis was a great civil rights leader who was beaten, bloodied, and jailed for his actions and beliefs. But he was not cowed or deterred. He had a brilliance for turning ideas into action.  His idea of “good trouble” has inspired a new generation. I often think about what he taught us about democracy — that is  an “act” not a “state.” We have to act to protect democracy. It’s not a spectator sport.



What is your new book Strongman about and what single point stands out?

 

Strongman tells the story of five of the most ruthless dictators in history and how they led their nations and people down such murderous paths. But these five men are real people, not “monsters,” and it is important to understand what real people are capable of doing.

 

One of the first things that leapt out to me is how quickly a Strongman, like Hitler or Mussolini, can take over a country, seize total control, and destroy democracy. 

 

It’s probably one of the most frightening pieces of the story — not only how quickly it can happen, but how so many people willingly follow them. With democracy in peril around the world, we need to be on guard for a Strongman with authoritarian tendencies who follows a playbook of similar moves. I write about those moves in my book.

 

You’ve been working as a writer for a long time. How did you become a writer?

 

A few years ago, I found a school assignment I wrote when I was nine: “My Project About Presidents.” It was an illustrated booklet that asked questions about some of the presidents. So clearly, I have loved history, books, and questions for a long time. From the time I was a small boy, I loved to read and I liked stories of real people. But I never thought I could be a writer. When I was in college, I began writing for the school newspaper. Later I worked in a bookstore where a friend read my college work and told me I should be writing books not selling them. That set me on the path to write about subjects I cared about and that I thought people need to understand.

 

I am very lucky in that I found the thing I loved to do and made a career out of it. I always believed that history was not about dates, battles, and speeches. And that is why I have written stories of real people that show us how the past is connected to the present. And when people ask me how to be a writer, my answer is simple: Start by being a reader. I think every great writer is a great reader first. And remember the power of questions. When you don’t know much, ask.

 

 

 

 

Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy

By: Kenneth C Davis

Publisher: Henry Holt BYR

Release Date: October 6th, 2020

 

  

 

 

*GIVEAWAY DETAILS* 

One winner will receive a copy of Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy ~ (US Only)

 

 

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