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Society for History Education

Daily Life in the United States, 1940-1959: Shifting Worlds by Eugenia Kaledin
Review by: Blaine T. Browne
The History Teacher, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Aug., 2001), pp. 540-541
Published by: Society for History Education
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540 TheHistoryTeacher

ThoughHoytdoespresentmanyandvariedstories,he continuesto returnto thestoriesof


abouta dozenofficersandenlistedmen.Theseindividualsmakeupthe backboneupon
whichthe restof the bookhasbeenstructured. Hoytmixestraditional narrativehistory
withoralhistoryin orderto keepthiswell-writtenbookmovingalongata quickpace.The
storiesthemselvesrangefromthemundane(soldiers'dislikeof C-Rations)to thesurreal
(an Americansergeantwho was reprimanded for being impoliteto a Germangeneral
officerthathe had captured),and fromthe amusing(Britishsoldiersbrewingup tea
beforegoing into battle)to the horrifying(the massacreof Americanprisonersby the
Waffen-SS at MalmedyduringtheBattleof theBulge).
Fromthepointof viewof teaching,thisbookwouldbeespeciallyusefulin a U.S.history
surveycourse.Sincethe book focusesits attentionon Americans,the storiesof these
ordinarysoldierswillbeof greatassistance
in helpingstudents understandthebravery,fears,
triumphs, andtragediesof a generationof menwhoareunfortunately beginningto disap-
pear.Thisbookis recommended forundergraduates, butnot for highschoolor graduate
students.Highschoolstudentsmightfindsomeof thestoriestoo graphic,whilegraduate
studentswill be understandablywaryof oralhistory.WhileI wholeheartedly recommend
thisbook,it doeshavesomeminorproblems. Firstly,thebookcontainsonlyabouta half-
dozenmaps.Indealingwithmilitaryhistory,it is almostimpossibleto properly understand
thestorywithoutbeingableto referto maps.Secondly,whilefourteen pagesof picturesare
to befoundin themiddleof thebook,mostof thephotoschosenareof norealimportance to
thestory.Thefirstfewpicturesareof thecentralcharactersof thebook,buttheotherpictures
seemto havebeenchosenalmostatrandomanddonothingtoaidthebook.Lastly,andmost
significantly,theauthordoesnotprovidea postscript concerning his corecharacters.It is
horribly tobecomeattached
frustrating tothesemenandthennotknowwhatbecameof them
afterthe war. Nevertheless,this book is recommended for undergraduates, university
andthegeneralpublic.
libraries,
KansasStateUniversity AlexanderM. Bielakowski

Daily Life in the UnitedStates, 1940-1959: ShiftingWorlds,by EugeniaKaledin.


Westport,Connecticut:GreenwoodPress, 2000. 264 pages. $45.00, hardbound.
As is notedinthepreface,thisworkis notintended tobe a conventional narrative
accountof
the UnitedStatesduringandimmediately aftertheSecondWorldWar.It is rather,as the
authorexplains,a seriesof "connected essays"designedto provokequestionsaboutthe
American experience duringthisperiod.Kaledin,whodescribesherselfas"asocialcriticof
UnitedStatesculture" ratherthana historian,
assertsthatAmerican life underwentfunda-
mentaltransformations between1940and1959,twodecadesthatshedescribesasdiffering
as greatlyas do thenineteenthandtwenty-firstcenturies. Inaneffortto morefullyexplore
the depthandmagnitude of the changesoccurring, she addressesa broadrangeof "daily
experiences" withthe intentof encouraging speculation ratherthanprovidingdefinitive
answers.Thethemesthatpervadethebookareequallybroad,perhapsthemostpersistent
andrecurring onebeingthatof howAmericans defined"thegoodlife"duringthisperiod.
Theauthor'sprofessedintentionis to awakentheintellectual curiosityof readerswho,she
hopes,mightat leasttemporarily forsakethecontemporary obsessionwiththeInternetin
favorof exploring theprintresourcesatthelocallibrary.Doubtlessmanyothersbesidesthis
reviewerwouldheartilysupport thisobjective.

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Textbooks,Readers,andReferences 541

Thefirstpartof thisbookis devotedto five briefchaptersthatspanthe 1940s,with


considerableattentionto the impactof the depressionandthe SecondWorldWaron
Americanlifestyles,attitudesandvalues.Theauthor'sgeneralintenthereis to demon-
stratehow the "old-fashioned worldof the 1940s"wasrapidlygivingwayin theface of
botheconomicand wartimeexigencies,whichdid muchto erodetraditionalattitudes
aboutsuchsubjectsas raceandwomen'srolesin societyandthe workplace.An admi-
rablechapteron how film definedwartimeAmericastandsout in this section.Other
chapterseffectivelyillustratehow scienceandtechnologyhadtransformed the lives of
Americansas of thelate1940s,allowingfora redefinition of the"goodlife".PartIIof the
bookis devotedto anexamination of the 1950s,by whichpoint,accordingto theauthor's
thesis,the foundations of "modem"postwarAmericawerefirmlyestablished.The first
chapterin thissectionfocuseson the RedScareandits consequences,whilethe subse-
quent"essay'focuseson the increasinglydynamiccivil rightsmovement,the statusof
women,changingsexualmores,familyandreligion.Othermajortopicscoveredin this
portionof thebookaretheColdWarandtheconsumer,theimpactof televisionandthe
literarycultureof the 1950s.
Becausethis bookis not a traditional historyof the era,somereadersmay findthe
styleandorganization somewhatidiosyncratic, buttheauthorgenerallysucceedsin her
statedpurpose.Using primarilysecondarysources,Kaledinprovidesan informedand
oftenentertaining discussionof manyof themajorissuesof the period,oftenfollowing
the ongoinghistoriographical debateso as to providean inclusiveperspective.In her
examination of theimpactof theatomicbomb,forexample,she pursuestheHiroshima/
Nagasakicontroversyinto the 1990s. In a conventionaltext, this approachmightbe
considereddigressive,butit seemsto workhere.Thereis muchto commendthisbookto
thosewhodesirea thought-provoking workthatdevotesfarmorethantheusualamount
of attentionto social,culturalandevenliterarytopics.Extensiveandthoughtfuldiscus-
sionsof theimpactof filmandtelevisionon American life addmuchto thisbook,as does
a laudableexamination of popularcultureanda well-presented overviewof the socio-
culturaldebateof the 1950s.Theauthor'sreexamination of the literature
of thatdecade
leadsherto concludethat,despiteprevailingcharacterizations of the 1950sas a decade
dominatedby conformityand consumerism, Americanintellectuallife was unusually
vibrant.The book is not strongon politicalhistory,but offersenoughinformationto
providea generalcontext.Thistexthasseveralapparent applications, mostobviouslyin
courseson recentAmericanstudiesor, as somewouldhaveit, Americancivilization.It
mightalsoserveas a usefulsupplement in courseon post-1945America.Thelevel of the
text is suchthatit wouldalso likelybe usefulfor advancedor honorsstudentsin high
schoolcourseson contemporary UnitedStateshistory.
BrowardCommunity Creek,Florida
College,Coconut BlaineT. Browne

The Skulking Way of War: Technologyand Tactics among the New England
Indians by PatrickM. Malone. Lanham,MD: MadisonBooks, 2000. 133 pages.
$18.95, paper.

This is an originaland unusualworkthatdefies easy categorization. It is a heavily


illustratedpaperback of just 100 pagesof textin an 8 x 11-inchformat,yet it includes
footnotesandotherscholarlytrappings. SkulkingWayof Waris alsomorethantenyears
old, as it was firstpublishedby MadisonHousein 1991 andthenreissuedby Johns

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