Since 1945, American popular culture has portrayed suburbia as a place with a culture, politics, and economy distinct from cities, towns, and rural areas. In Between City and Country, Ronald Dale Karr examines the evolution of Brookline, Boston's most renowned nineteenth-century suburb, arguing that a distinctively suburban way of life appeared here long before World War II.
Already a fashionable retreat for wealthy Bostonians, Brookline began to suburbanize in the 1840s with the arrival of hundreds of commuter families—and significant numbers of Irish Catholic immigrants drawn by opportunities to work as laborers and servants. In Brookline the poor were segregated but not excluded altogether, as they would be from twentieth-century elite suburbs. A half century later, a distinct suburban way of life developed that combined rural activities with urban pastimes, and a political consensus emerged that sought efficient government and large expenditures on education and public works. Brookline had created the template for the concept of suburbia, not just in wealthy communities but in the less affluent communities of postwar America.
In the decades following World War II, cities across the United States saw an influx of African American families into otherwise homogeneously white areas. This racial transformation of urban neighborhoods led many whites to migrate to the suburbs, producing the phenomenon commonly known as white flight. In Block by Block, Amanda I. Seligman draws on the surprisingly understudied West Side communities of Chicago to shed new light on this story of postwar urban America.
Seligman's study reveals that the responses of white West Siders to racial changes occurring in their neighborhoods were both multifaceted and extensive. She shows that, despite rehabilitation efforts, deterioration in these areas began long before the color of their inhabitants changed from white to black. And ultimately, the riots that erupted on Chicago's West Side and across the country in the mid-1960s stemmed not only from the tribulations specific to blacks in urban centers but also from the legacy of accumulated neglect after decades of white occupancy. Seligman's careful and evenhanded account will be essential to understanding that the "flight" of whites to the suburbs was the eventual result of a series of responses to transformations in Chicago's physical and social landscape, occurring one block at a time.
At the turn of the 20th century, the California dream was a suburban ideal where life on the farm was exceptional. Agrarian virtue existed alongside good roads, social clubs, cultural institutions, and business commerce. The California suburban dream was the ultimate symbol of progress and modernity.
California Dreaming: Boosterism, Memory, and Rural Suburbs in the Golden State analyzes the growth, promotion, and agricultural colonization that fed this dream during the early 1900s. Through this analysis, Paul J. P. Sandul introduces a newly identified rural-suburban type: the agriburb, a rural suburb deliberately planned, developed, and promoted for profit. Sandul reconceptualizes California’s growth during this time period, establishing the agriburb as a suburban phenomenon that occurred long before the booms of the 1920s and 1950s.
Sandul’s analysis contributes to a new suburban history that includes diverse constituencies and geographies and focuses on the production and construction of place and memory. Boosters purposefully “harvested” suburbs with an eye toward direct profit and metropolitan growth. State boosters boasted of unsurpassable idyllic communities while local boosters bragged of communities that represented the best of the best, both using narratives of place, class, race, lifestyle, and profit to avow images of the rural and suburban ideal.
This suburban dream attracted people who desired a family home, nature, health, culture, refinement, and rural virtue. In the agriburb, a family could live on a small home grove while enjoying the perks of a progressive city. A home located within the landscape of natural California with access to urban amenities provided a good place to live and a way to gain revenue through farming.
To uncover and dissect the agriburb, Sandul focuses on local histories from California’s Central Valley and the Inland Empire of Southern California, including Ontario near Los Angeles and Orangevale and Fair Oaks outside Sacramento. His analysis closely operates between the intersections of history, anthropology, geography, sociology, and the rural and urban, while examining a metanarrative that exposes much about the nature and lasting influence of cultural memory and public history upon agriburban communities.
Formed by images of crowded city streets and towering skyscrapers, our understanding of nineteenth-century Chicago completely neglects the fact that the city itself was only the center of a web of neighborhoods, farm communities, and industrial towns—many connected to the city by the railroad. Farmers used trains to transport produce into the city daily; businessmen rode the rails home to their commuter suburbs; and families took vacations mere miles outside the Loop.
Historian and coeditor of the acclaimed Encyclopedia of Chicago, Ann Durkin Keating resurrects for us here the bustling network that defined greater Chicagoland. Taking a new approach to the history of the city, Keating shifts the focus to the landscapes and built environments of the metropolitan region. Organized by four categories of settlements-farm centers, industrial towns, commuter suburbs, and recreational and institutional centers-that framed the city, Chicagoland offers the collective history of 230 neighborhoods and communities, the people who built them, and the structures they left behind that still stand today.
Keating reanimates nineteenth-century Chicagoland with more than a hundred photographs and maps; we find here the taverns, depots, and way stations that were the hubs of the region's vibrant, mobile life. Keating also includes an appendix of driving tours so readers can see this history for themselves. Chicagoland takes us into the buildings and sites that are still part of our landscape and repopulates them with the stories and characters behind their creation. The result is a wide-angle historical view of Chicago, an entirely new way to understand the region.
Northern whites in the post–World War II era began to support the principle of civil rights, so why did many of them continue to oppose racial integration in their communities? Challenging conventional wisdom about the growth, prosperity, and racial exclusivity of American suburbs, David M. P. Freund argues that previous attempts to answer this question have overlooked a change in the racial thinking of whites and the role of suburban politics in effecting this change. In Colored Property, he shows how federal intervention spurred a dramatic shift in the language and logic of residential exclusion—away from invocations of a mythical racial hierarchy and toward talk of markets, property, and citizenship.
Freund begins his exploration by tracing the emergence of a powerful public-private alliance that facilitated postwar suburban growth across the nation with federal programs that significantly favored whites. Then, showing how this national story played out in metropolitan Detroit, he visits zoning board and city council meetings, details the efforts of neighborhood “property improvement” associations, and reconstructs battles over race and housing to demonstrate how whites learned to view discrimination not as an act of racism but as a legitimate response to the needs of the market. Illuminating government’s powerful yet still-hidden role in the segregation of U.S. cities, Colored Property presents a dramatic new vision of metropolitan growth, segregation, and white identity in modern America.
They are the suburban jewels that crown one of the world's premier cities. Evanston, Wilmette, Kenilworth, Winnetka, Glencoe, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lake Bluff: together, they comprise the North Shore of Chicago, a social registry of eight communities that serve as a genteel enclave of affluence, culture, and high society. Historian Michael H. Ebner explains the origins and evolution of the North Shore as a distinctive region. At the same time, he tells the paradoxical story of how these suburbs, with their common heritage, mutual values, and shared aspirations, still preserve their distinctly separate identities. Embedded in this history are important lessons about the uneasy development of the American metropolis.
Gravity Hill: A Memoir
Maximilian Werner University of Utah Press, 2013 Library of Congress F834.S253W47 2013 | Dewey Decimal 979.2258033
“The sound of parenthood is the sigh.” So begins Gravity Hill, written from the perspective of a new father seeking hope, beauty, and meaning in an uncertain world. Many memoirs recount the author’s experiences of growing up and struggling with demons; Werner’s shows how old demons sometimes return on the heels of something as beautiful as children. Werner’s memoir is about growing up, getting older, looking back, and wondering what lies ahead—a process that becomes all the more complicated and intense when parenting is involved. Moving backward and forward between past, present, and future, Gravity Hill does not delineate time so much as collapse it.
Werner narrates his struggle growing up in suburban Utah as anon-Mormon and what it took for him, his siblings, and his friends to feel like they belonged. Bonding in separation, they indulged in each other, in natural and urban landscapes, and sometimes in the destructive behaviors that are the native resort of outsidersincluding promiscuous and occasionally violent sexual behavior—and for some, paths to death and suicide. Gravity Hill is the story of the author’s descent into and eventual emergence from his dysfunction and into a newfound life. Infused with humor, honesty, and reflection, this literary memoir will resonate with readers young and old.
Dahlia Schweitzer Rutgers University Press, 2021 Library of Congress PN1995.9.H367S39 2021 | Dewey Decimal 791.43675
Haunted Homes is a short but groundbreaking study of homes in horror film and television. While haunted houses can be fun and thrilling, Hollywood horror tends to focus on haunted homes, places where the suburban American dream of safety and comfort has turned into a nightmare. From classic movies like The Old Dark House to contemporary works like Hereditary and the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, Dahlia Schweitzer explores why haunted homes have become a prime stage for dramatizing anxieties about family, gender, race, and economic collapse. She traces how the haunted home film was intertwined with the expansion of American suburbia, but also explores works like The Witch and The Babadook, which transport the genre to different times and places. This lively and readable study reveals how and why an increasing number of films imagine that home is where the horror is.
Knox, Paul L Rutgers University Press, 2008 Library of Congress HT352.U6K56 2008 | Dewey Decimal 307.760973
Decades of economic prosperity in the United States have redefined the American dream. Paul Knox explores how extreme versions of this dream have changed the American landscape. Increased wealth has led America's metropolitan areas to develop into vast sprawling regions of "metroburbia"ùfragmented mixtures of employment and residential settings, combining urban and suburban characteristics.
Upper-middle-class Americans are moving into larger homes in greater numbers, which leads Knox to explore the relationship between built form and material culture in contemporary society. He covers changes in home design, real estate, the work of developers, and the changing wishes of consumers. Knox shows that contemporary suburban landscapes are a product of consumer demand, combined with the logic of real estate development, mediated by design and policy professionals and institutions of governance. Suburban landscapes not only echo the fortunes of successive generations of inhabitants, Knox argues, they also reflect the country's changing core values.
Knox addresses key areas of concern and importance to today's urban planners and suburban residents including McMansions, traffic disasters, house design, homeowner's associations, exclusionary politics, and big box stores. Through the inclusion of examples and photos, Metroburbia, USA creates an accessible portrait of today's suburbs supported by data, anecdotes, and social theory. It is a broad interpretation of the American metropolitan form that looks carefully at the different influences that contribute to where and how we live today.
At one time, a move to the suburbs was the American Dream for many families. However, despite the success of Levittown, NY,impoverished “inner-ring” suburbs—those closest to the urban core of metropolitan cities—like Lansdowne, MD, are in decline. As aging housing stock, foreclosures, severe fiscal problems, slow population growth, increasing poverty, and struggling local economies affect inner-ring suburbs, what can be done to save them?
Once the American Dream analyzes this downward trend, examining 5,000 suburbs across 100 different metropolitan areas and census regions in 1980 and 2000. Hanlon defines the suburbs’ geographic boundaries and provides a ranking system for assessing and acting upon inner-ring suburban decline. She also illuminates her detailed statistical analysis with vivid case studies. She demonstrates how other suburbs, particularly those in the outer reaches of cities, flourished during the 1980s and 1990s. Once the American Dream closes with a discussion of policy implications and recommendations for policymakers and planners who deal with suburbs of various stripes.
What does it mean to be a gay man living in the suburbs? Do you identify primarily as gay, or suburban, or some combination of the two? For that matter, how does anyone decide what his or her identity is?
In this first-ever ethnography of American gay suburbanites, Wayne H. Brekhus demonstrates that who one is depends at least in part on where and when one is. For many urban gay men, being homosexual is key to their identity because they live, work, and socialize in almost exclusively gay circles. Brekhus calls such men "lifestylers" or peacocks. Chameleons or "commuters," on the other hand, live and work in conventional suburban settings, but lead intense gay social and sexual lives outside the suburbs. Centaurs, meanwhile, or "integrators," mix typical suburban jobs and homes with low-key gay social and sexual activities. In other words, lifestylers see homosexuality as something you are, commuters as something you do, and integrators as part of yourself.
Ultimately, Brekhus shows that lifestyling, commuting, and integrating embody competing identity strategies that occur not only among gay men but across a broad range of social categories. What results, then, is an innovative work that will interest sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and students of gay culture.
Given the realities of climate change and sea-level rise, coastal cities around the world are struggling with questions of resilience. Resilience, at its core, is about desirable states of the urban social-ecological system and understanding how to sustain those states in an uncertain and tumultuous future. How do physical conditions, ecological processes, social objectives, human politics, and history shape the prospects for resilience? Most books set out “the answer.” This book sets out a process of grappling with holistic resilience from multiple perspectives, drawing on the insights and experiences of more than fifty scholars and practitioners working together to make Jamaica Bay in New York City an example for the world.
Prospects for Resilience establishes a framework for understanding resilience practice in urban watersheds. Using Jamaica Bay—the largest contiguous natural area in New York, home to millions of New Yorkers, and a hub of global air travel with John F. Kennedy International Airport—the authors demonstrate how various components of social-ecological systems interact, ranging from climatic factors to plant populations to human demographics. They also highlight essential tools for creating resilient watersheds, including monitoring and identifying system indicators; computer modeling; green infrastructure; and decision science methods. Finally, they look at the role and importance of a “boundary organization” like the new Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay in coordinating and facilitating resilience work, and consider significant research questions and prospects for the future of urban watersheds.
Prospects for Resilience sets forth an essential foundation of information and advice for researchers, urban planners, students and others who need to create more resilient cities that work with, not against, nature.
Seattle, often called the “Emerald City,” did not achieve its green, clean, and sustainable environment easily. This thriving ecotopia is the byproduct of continuing efforts by residents, businesses, and civic leaders alike. In Seattle and the Roots of Urban Sustainability, Jeffrey Craig Sanders examines the rise of environmental activism in Seattle amidst the “urban crisis” of the 1960s and its aftermath.
Like much activism during this period, the environmental movement began at the grassroots level—in local neighborhoods over local issues. Sanders links the rise of local environmentalism to larger movements for economic, racial, and gender equality and to a counterculture that changed the social and political landscape. He examines emblematic battles that erupted over the planned demolition of Pike Place Market, a local landmark, and environmental organizing in the Central District during the War on Poverty. Sanders also relates the story of Fort Lawton, a decommissioned army base, where Audubon Society members and Native American activists feuded over future land use.
The rise and popularity of environmental consciousness among Seattle’s residents came to influence everything from industry to politics, planning, and global environmental movements. Yet, as Sanders reveals, it was in the small, local struggles that urban environmental activism began.
Sprawl is the single most significant and urgent issue in American land use at the turn of the twenty-first century. Efforts to limit and reform sprawl through legislative “Smart Growth” initiatives have been enacted around the country while the neotraditionalist New Urbanism has been embraced by many architects and urban planners. Yet most Americans persist in their desire to live farther and farther away from urban centers, moving to exurbs made up almost entirely of single-family residential houses and stand-alone shopping areas.
Sprawl and Suburbia brings together some of the foremost thinkers in the field to present in-depth diagnosis and critical analysis of the physical and social realities of exurban sprawl. Along with an introduction by Robert Fishman, these essays call for architects, urban planners, and landscape designers to work at mitigating the impact of sprawl on land and resources and improving the residential and commercial built environment as a whole. In place of vast residential exurbs, these writers offer visions of a fresh urbanism—appealing and persuasive models of life at greater density, with greater diversity, and within genuine communities.
With sprawl losing the support of suburban citizens themselves as economic, environmental, and social costs are being paid, Sprawl and Suburbia appears at a moment when design might achieve some critical influence over development—if architects and planners accept the challenge.
Contributors: Mike Davis, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Peter Hall, David Harvey, Jerold S. Kayden, Matthew J. Kiefer, Alex Krieger, Andrew Ross, James S. Russell, Mitchell Schwarzer.
William S. Saunders is editor of Harvard Design Magazine and assistant dean for external relations at the Harvard Design School. He is the author of Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller.
Robert Fishman is professor of architecture and urban planning at the Taubman College of Architecture, University of Michigan. He is author of Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia and editor of The American Planning Tradition: Culture and Policy.
2016 Choice Outstanding Academic Title andJane Jacobs Urban Communication Book Award finalist
Starting with the premise that suburban films, residential neighborhoods, chain restaurants, malls, and megachurches are compelling forms (topos) that shape and materialize the everyday lives of residents and visitors, Greg Dickinson’s Suburban Dreams offers a rhetorically attuned critical analysis of contemporary American suburbs and the “good life” their residents pursue.
Dickinson’s analysis suggests that the good life is rooted in memory and locality, both of which are foundations for creating a sense of safety central to the success of suburbs. His argument is situated first in a discussion of the intersections among buildings, cities, and the good life and the challenges to these relationships wrought by the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. The argument then turns to rich, fully-embodied analyses of suburban films and a series of archetypal suburban landscapes to explore how memory, locality, and safety interact in constructing the suburban imaginary. Moving from the pastoralism of residential neighborhoods and chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill, through the megachurch’s veneration of suburban malls to the mixed-use lifestyle center’s nostalgic invocation of urban downtowns, Dickinson complicates traditional understandings of the ways suburbs situate residents and visitors in time and place.
The analysis suggests that the suburban good life is devoted to family. Framed by the discourses of consumer culture, the suburbs often privilege walls and roots to an expansive vision of worldliness. At the same time, developments such as farmers markets suggest a continued striving by suburbanites to form relationships in a richer, more organic fashion.
Dickinson’s work eschews casually dismissive attitudes toward the suburbs and the pursuit of the good life. Rather, he succeeds in showing how by identifying the positive rhetorical resources the suburbs supply, it is in fact possible to engage with the suburbs intentionally, thoughtfully, and rigorously. Beyond an analysis of the suburban imaginary, Suburban Dreams demonstrates how a critical engagement with everyday places can enrich daily life. The book provides much of interest to students and scholars of rhetoric, communication studies, public memory, American studies, architecture, and urban planning.
Marsh, Margaret Rutgers University Press, 1990 Library of Congress HT352.U6M37 1990 | Dewey Decimal 307.74082
Focusing on a variety of criminal activities, the author applies his structural criminology to the relationships of power which operate in a range of institutional spheres. He looks at the relationship between class and criminality, showing the inadequacy of a simple causal link and discussing the prevalence of "white collar" crime. Hagan sees other significant structures of power in the relative influence of corporate actors - for example large commercial establishments - who bring charges against individuals, and he analyzes both the legal outcome of such conflicts and the symbolic aspects of sentencing and judicial operations in general. Throughout, these essays stress the structural importance of unemployment, race and gender in the legal definitions of criminal behavior and the need to situate each factor within its complex of power relationships.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, as Americans contended with rapid industrial and technological change, readers relied on periodicals and books for information about their changing world. Within this print culture, a host of writers, editors, architects, and reformers urged men to commute to and from their jobs in the city, which was commonly associated with overcrowding, disease, and expense. Through a range of materials, from pattern books to novels and a variety of periodicals, men were told of the restorative effects on body and soul of the natural environment, found in the emerging suburbs outside cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. They were assured that the promise of an ideal home, despite its association with women's work, could help to motivate them to engage in the labor and commute that took them away from it each day.
In Suburban Plots, Maura D'Amore explores how Henry David Thoreau, Henry Ward Beecher, Donald Grant Mitchell, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nathaniel Parker Willis, and others utilized the pen to plot opportunities for a new sort of male agency grounded, literarily and spatially, in a suburbanized domestic landscape. D'Amore uncovers surprising narratives that do not fit easily into standard critical accounts of midcentury home life. Taking men out of work spaces and locating them in the domestic sphere, these writers were involved in a complex process of portraying men struggling to fulfill fantasies outside of their professional lives, in newly emerging communities. These representations established the groundwork for popular conceptions of suburban domestic life that remain today.
Kalita, S. Mitra Rutgers University Press, 2003 Library of Congress F142.M6K35 2003 | Dewey Decimal 929.208991411073
Winner of the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance Book Award for Popular Non-Fiction
From movie theaters showing the songs and gyrations of “Bollywood” to valedictorians named Patel and Shah, signs are everywhere that Middlesex County, New Jersey is home to one of the largest Indian populations in the world outside India. By tracing the migration of three families, this book delves into how immigration has altered the American suburb, and how the suburb, in turn, has altered the immigrant.
In this updated edition, journalist S. Mitra Kalita shows that although the reception from long-time residents has not been entirely welcoming, Indians have come to achieve economic success and their desire for political and social parity continues to grow stronger. She traces the evolution of the suburb from a destination for new arrivals to a launching pad for them.
In the late nineteenth century, tourists descended upon Edison to gawk at its Christmas lights displays. Today, thousands of Indians from all over the United States arrive in the same bedroom community to celebrate their own festivals of lights and colors. Suburban Sahibs attempts to answer the question of how and why they arrived, and offers a window into what America has become: a nation of suburbs as well as a nation of immigrants.
Teenage Wasteland provides memorable portraits of "rock and roll kids" and shrewd analyses of their interests in heavy metal music and Satanism. A powerful indictment of the often manipulative media coverage of youth crises and so-called alternative programs designed to help "troubled" teens, Teenage Wasteland draws new conclusions and presents solid reasons to admire the resilience of suburbia's dead end kids.
"A powerful book."—Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times Book Review
"[Gaines] sheds light on a poorly understood world and raises compelling questions about what society might do to help this alienated group of young people."—Ann Grimes, Washington Post Book World
"There is no comparable study of teenage suburban culture . . . and very few ethnographic inquiries written with anything like Gaines's native gusto or her luminous eye for detail."—Andrew Ross, Transition
"An outstanding case study. . . . Gaines shows how teens engage in cultural production and how such social agency is affected by economic transformations and institutional interventions."—Richard Lachman, Contemporary Sociology
"The best book on contemporary youth culture."—Rolling Stone