Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience

November 1, 2020

For November’s Book of the Month, we’ve selected Melanie Kirkpatrick’s book, Thanksgiving: The Holiday at the Heart of the American Experience. Melanie Kirkpatrick is a writer-journalist based in Connecticut and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.  In additional authoring several books, she is an award-winning journalist and expert on foreign policy and human rights, focusing on East Asia and the Pacific.  She was previously the deputy editor of the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal from 2006-2009.  Melanie is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a director of the America for Bulgaria Foundation, and a member of the Human Freedom Advisory Council of the George W. Bush Presidential Center.  Ms. Kirkpatrick is married to Jack David, a senior fellow and trustee of the Hudson Institute.

About the book…

Her book, Thanksgiving, delves into the uniquely American experience of the holiday we all love to celebrate.  Each thanksgiving, Americans of all backgrounds gather to ‘give thanks’ and celebrate freedom, faith, and family.  Melanie Kirkpatrick weaves a story of gratitude in America through four centuries of these celebrations.  There are many stories that have been forgotten over time, and she brings them into the light so that we may understand the beauty of this celebration.  Melanie notes that many of the traditions we still hold can be seen in the descriptions of the very first Thanksgiving in 1621.  She was drawn to this topic after the terror attacks on September 11, wanting to fully understand what it meant to be an American.  The history is built on the first celebration – thanking our Creator for providing food and celebrating peace with good neighbors.

In this book, you will find:

  1. The history of our Thanksgiving traditions
  2. Other thanksgivings celebrated prior to the Pilgrims
  3. Readings for Thanksgiving Day
  4. Thanksgiving recipes
  5. The story of the ‘Godmother of Thanksgiving’

Thanksgiving Day is truly a unique holiday that shows how different we can be, but still embrace the American ethos.  A particular poignant story is her experience teaching a classroom of immigrant high school students about the holiday.  She said, “I met with three classes and we talked about what Thanksgiving meant to them.  These were all kids who were about to celebrate their first or second Thanksgiving.  What struck me is that the kids had a very personal understanding of what Thanksgiving was about and why the Pilgrims came to America.”

We are so pleased to have you all join us as we read and celebrate one of the great American holidays, Thanksgiving Day.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What story surprised you the most?
  2. What lesson can you learn from the ‘Godmother of Thanksgiving’?
  3. What does the book tell you about faith and gratitude in America?
  4. Were there any traditions that you have not participated in?