Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960

Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960

by Judith E. Smith

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— Elaine May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era


— Elaine May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era

Editorial Reviews


Smith's treatment gives readers much to consider...Highly recommended.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History - Elaine Tyler May

Visions of Belonging is a monumental work of cultural history... Judith Smith has challenged the common wisdom... And made a powerful contribution.

Canadian Review of American Studies

Smith's Visions of Belonging is a masterpiece of interdisciplinary scholarship. Research, narrative, and analysis are all exemplary, making the book a 'must read' on the topic of post-war American cultural and social history.

Journal of American Ethnic History - Dara Orenstein

A powerful & meticulously researched study of fourteen stories that helped to plot the boundaries of cultural citizenship.

Journal of American History - Joseph Hawes

[It] is full of vitality and is bound to be used, cited, and assigned to generations of students.

American Historical Review - Renee Romano

Smith has written an important book that will serve as a great resource for historians of American postwar culture and politics.

Film International - Paul Buhle

A very remarkable and extremely useful book.

H-Net Reviews - Crista DeLuzio

[This] consistently nuanced and impeccably informed analysis... raises provocative questions.

Film Quarterly - Martin Fradley

Highly readable and sensitively written.

American Studies - William Graebner

[A] rich, fascinating, and important book.

Product Details

Columbia University Press
Publication date:
Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
10 MB

What People are saying about this

George Lipsitz

This is a wonderful book. There is a brilliant specificity to this project; Smith's re-readings of well known texts reveal just how much cultural expressions of this era wittingly and unwittingly registered the time period's enormous social transformations. Her work explores the links between patriarchy and patriotism by showing how cultural stories about the family make citizenship legible and credible to ordinary people.

Christine Stansell

There is nothing else like this wonderful book among histories of post-World War II America. In the aftermath of the great victory against fascism and on through the darkening 1950s, playwrights, TV scriptwriters, film directors, bestselling novelists and their enraptured audiences struggled to reimagine the American Everyman and Everywoman and in the process reconceive the country. As she investigates the riches of popular culture high and low, Judith Smith captures both the hopefulness and myopia of their moment. Visions of Belonging is an extraordinary blend of tenderness and intellectual power.

David Roediger

We have grown so accustomed to sharing the pain, laughter, and triumphs of 'ordinary families'--from the Waltons to the Osbournes--in U.S. popular culture that it is easy to suppose such imagined intimacies have always existed. Judith Smith profoundly shows us that such visions of belonging not only have a history, but one that redefines the broader stories of world war and cold war, of liberalism and the left, and, above all, of the definitive ways that the popular became multiethnic and the ambiguous ways that it became interracial.

Lizabeth Cohen

Judith Smith takes the major popular culture texts of the postwar era--such as I Remember Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Death of a Salesman--and brilliantly reveals how much they have to say about prevailing attitudes toward ethnicity, gender, class, race, sexuality, family, and national identity. Reading this book was a revelation to me.

Kevin Gaines

Judith Smith skillfully demonstrates how central issues of race and the inclusion of African Americans in American democracy were to the postwar period. Her vivid and absorbing account of the narratives and representations of the American family in the literature, film, and television productions of the period provide an insightful new way to understand the contest for democracy in the twentieth century.

Meet the Author

Judith E. Smith is professor of American studies at University of Massachusetts Boston and the author of Family Connections: A History of Italian and Jewish Immigrant Lives in Providence, Rhode Island, 1900-1940.

Columbia University Press

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