-- Elaine May, author of Homeward Bound: American Families in the Cold War Era
About 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
Table of Contents
Part 1 Ordinary Families, Popular Culture, and Popular Democracy, 1935-1945
Radio's Formula Drama
Popular Theater and Popular Democracy
Popular Democracy on the Radio
Popular Democracy in Wartime: Multiethnic and Multiracial?
Representing the Soldier
The New World of the Home Front
Soldiers as Veterans: Imagining the Postwar World
Looking Back Stories
Part 2 Making the Working-Class Family Ordinary: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
From Working-Class Daughter to Working-Class Writer
Revising 1930s Radical Visions
Remembering a Working-Class Past
Instructing the Middle Class
The Ethnic and Racial Boundaries of the Ordinary
Making Womanhood Ordinary
Hollywood Revises A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
The Declining Appeal of Tree's Social Terrain
Part 3 Home Front Harmony and Remembering Mama
"Mama's Bank Account" and Other Ethnic Working-Class Fictions
Remembering Mama on the Stage
The Mother Next Door on Film, 1947-1948
Mama on CBS, 1949-1956
The Appeal of TV Mama's Ordinary Family
"Trading Places" Stories
Part 4 Loving Across Prewar Racial and Sexual Boundaries
Lillian Smith and Strange Fruit
Quality Reinstates the Color Line
Strange Fruit as Failed Social Drama
The Returning Negro Soldier, Interracial Romance, and Deep Are the Roots
Interracial Male Homosociability in Home of the Brave
Part 5 "Seeing Through" Jewishness
Perception and Racial Boundaries in Focus
Policing Racial and Gender Boundaries in The Brick Foxhole
Recasting the Victim in Crossfire
Deracializing Jewishness in Gentleman's Agreement
Part 6 Hollywood Makes Race (In)Visible
"A Great Step Forward": The Film Home of the Brave
Lost Boundaries: Racial Indeterminacy as Whiteness
Pinky: Racial Indeterminacy as Blackness
Trading Places or No Way Out?
Part 7 Competing Postwar Representations of Universalism
The "Truly Universal People": Richard Durham's Destination Freedom
The Evolution of Arthur Miller's Ordinary Family
Miller's Search for "the People," 1947-1948
The Creation of an Ordinary American Tragedy: Death of a Salesman
The Rising Tide of Anticommunism
Part 8 Marital Realism and Everyman Love Stories
Marital Realism Before and After the Blacklist
The Promise of Live Television Drama
Paddy Chayefsky's Everyman Ethnicity
Conservative and Corporate Constraints on Representing the Ordinary
Filming Television's "Ordinary": Marty's Everyman Romance
Part 9 Reracializing the Ordinary American Family: Raisin in the Sun
Lorraine Hansberry's South Side Childhood
Leaving Home, Stepping "Deliberately Against the Beat"
The Freedom Family and the Black Left
"I Am a Writer": Hansberry in Greenwich Village
Raisin in the Sun: Hansberry's Conception, Audience Reception
Frozen in the Frame: The Film of Raisin
Visions of Belonging
Columbia University Press
What People are Saying About This
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.