This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
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Inspiring, thoughtful text on American ideals, government.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Thorough review of the Constitution from conception through drafting, approval, amendments, and interpretation by the courts. Includes full text of Constitution and Declaration of Independence, plus a version of the Constitution written in modern, everyday English. Provides extensive historical context and suggestions for further learning, including reading the Federalist Papers and finding out what your family's taxes are spent on.

Positive Messages

Democracy requires active engagement to preserve the ideals of the Constitution, otherwise it's just words on parchment. It's important to understand the missteps in the Constitution and American history to understand and appreciate America today. Perfection is an unlikely achievement but a worthy goal, and it's worthy to continue to try to improve. Speak up against injustice, respect the law, and put in the work to be an informed, engaged citizen. Listen to what others have to say and try to find common ground.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Khan is a passionate believer in the Constitution and shows great admiration and affection for what it says. His experience shows how influential and meaningful it can be on an intimately personal level.

Violence
Sex
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father is an informative, affectionate guide to the U.S. Constitution by Khizr Khan, a Pakistani-born attorney thrust into the national spotlight during the 2016 presidential campaign. Khan, whose middle son was a U.S. Army captain killed in Iraq, does not directly address the criticisms he exchanged with then-Republican candidate Donald Trump, but he writes in the introduction that "certain politicians encouraged ugly prejudices" against Muslims. The book discusses the historical context surrounding the writing of the Constitution and points out significant changes since, particularly in areas of social justice (ending slavery, granting women's suffrage, legalizing gay marriage, etc.). Khan explains each section of the Constitution in accessible, modern language and includes personal notes on key pieces that have been especially meaningful to him.

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What's the story?

THIS IS OUR CONSTITUTION: DISCOVER AMERICA WITH A GOLD STAR FATHER is an informative guide to the U.S. Constitution: its history, ideals, failings, evolution, and promise. Khan starts with two sections of particular interest to him: the individual rights enshrined in the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment, which he believes represents "the goodness and generosity" of America. Khan discusses the debates around the writing of the Constitution and walks readers through a plain-language version, annotated with historical context and personal reflections. Khan then details amendments and landmark court cases that further shaped the document. The book also includes the full Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Is it any good?

Pakistani-born attorney Khizr Khan brings scholarly understanding and passionate, personal insight to his thorough guide to the ideals set forth in the U.S. Constitution and how they've shaped America. This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father is a useful, though sometimes dense, text, providing a plain-language version of the 18th-century document and a patient explanation of how it has evolved through amendments and legal decisions. Khan excels in bringing to the work his unique perspective as an immigrant drawn to America by the promise of the Constitution and as a father of a soldier killed in Iraq. His affection and admiration for the Constitution help bring the document to life.

Khan finds hope even in the Constitution's "loathsome" failings (preserving slavery, notably, and barring women from voting), because they show its strength as a living document charting America's goal of creating "a more perfect union."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about author Khizr Khan's strong admiration for the Constitution in This Is Our Constitution: Discover America with a Gold Star Father. How do you feel about the Constitution? Does it affect you on an emotional level?

  • Which parts of the Constitution are especially meaningful for you?

  • Khan is optimistic about America's future and how the Constitution may shape -- and be shaped by -- that future. Do you agree? What would you want to change in the Constitution?

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