Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition by Karen Blumenthal

Received: In the library

Rating: 4.0/5.0 stars

Summary: As the book’s title states, Bootleg is a non-fiction book that discusses the rise, the fall, and everything in between in regards to the prohibition. Included are the events and reasons behind why the prohibition began, the positive and negative effects of prohibition, and how prohibition came to a halt. Besides just text, there are black-and-white photographs, comedic drawings, and advertisements. In addition, the end of the book includes a glossary, bibliography, source notes, and an index.

Since I give quite a few book talks throughout the school year, and probably many more now that I will be a school librarian, I always try to include a wide range of books in my book talk collection. When I choose non-fiction books, I try to pick ones that either cover a somewhat controversial topic, such as when I read They Called Themselves the K.K.K. or have appealing titles that will grab the reader’s attention, such as this one. Once I complete the book, I base my decision on whether or not to include the book in a book talk based on how the book reads. As with They Called Themselves the K.K.K. and Spies of Mississippi, Bootleg reads more like a fiction book than a non-fiction book. This is the preferred type of non-fiction book I book talk.

Okay, aside from all that, I enjoyed Bootleg. It wasn’t that this book was full of excitement, suspense, and drama like some other non-fiction books I have enjoyed reading, but Bootleg taught me a lot, surprised me, and even made me laugh out loud at times. For example, I didn’t realize how women played such a key role in getting the amendment for prohibition to pass. A kind of humorous action that happened during the years prior to prohibition was by a woman named Carrie Nation. Mrs. Nation would literally go into bars with bricks, stones, and hatchets to break bottles and ruin the bars. This woman looked like a sweet little old lady, but her actions showed that she didn’t really fit this image.

Another interesting, kind of surprising fact I didn’t realize happened was that even though many politicians believed and signed the amendment approving the prohibition, they still were illegally drinking and partaking in the actions that they were telling others not to do. Furthermore, Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s husband, U.S. Representative Nicholas Longworth, outright told his wife that he “did not have the slightest intention of complying with the Eighteenth Amendment” (Blumenthal 75). Corrupt???

Although many may believe prohibition was just a joke and didn't work, there were some strong reasons why it began, such as the negative effects of alcohol on one’s health, and some positive outcomes during the years of prohibition. Yet, prohibition and the Eighteenth Amendment’s positives did not outweigh its negatives. As author Blumenthal states, “For the first—and only—time in American history, a part of the U.S. Constitution had been erased” (121). This book taught me many tidbits and facts while still being an entertaining, enjoyable read. I think the book’s title and subject, along with Al Capone being involved, will be the seller for getting teens interested in reading Bootleg.

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