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Astounding Wonder

Imagining Science and Science Fiction in Interwar America

By John Cheng

When physicist Robert Goddard, whose career was inspired by H. G. Wells's War of the Worlds, published "A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes," the response was electric. Newspaper headlines across the country announced, "Modern Jules Verne Invents Rocket to Reach Moon," while people from around the world, including two World War I pilots, volunteered as pioneers in space exploration. Though premature (Goddard's rocket, alas, was only imagined), the episode demonstrated not only science's general popularity but also its intersection with interwar popular and commercial culture. In that intersection, the stories that inspired Goddard and others became a recognizable genre: science fiction. Astounding Wonder explores science fiction's emergence in the era's "pulps," colorful magazines that shouted from the newsstands, attracting an extraordinarily loyal and active audience.

Pulps invited readers not only to read science fiction but also to participate init, joining writers and editors in celebrating a collective wonder for and investment in the potential of science. But in conjuring fantastic machines, travel across time and space, unexplored worlds, and alien foes, science fiction offered more than rousing adventure and romance. It also assuaged contemporary concerns about nation, gender, race, authority, ability, and progress—about the place of ordinary individuals within modern science and society—in the process freeing readers to debate scientific theories and implications separate from such concerns.

Readers similarly sought to establish their worth and place outside the pulps. Organizing clubs and conventions and producing their own magazines, some expanded science fiction's community and created a fan subculture separate from the professional pulp industry. Others formed societies to launch and experiment with rockets. From debating relativity and the use of slang in the future to printing purple fanzines and calculating the speed of spaceships, fans' enthusiastic industry revealed the tensions between popular science and modern science. Even as it inspired readers' imagination and activities, science fiction's participatory ethos sparked debates about amateurs and professionals that divided the worlds of science fiction in the 1930s and after.

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At Berkeley in the Sixties

The Making of an Activist

Jo J. Freeman

This book is a memoir and a history of Berkeley in the early Sixties. As a young undergraduate, Jo Freeman was a key participant in the growth of social activism at the University of California, Berkeley. The story is told with the "you are there" immediacy of Freeman the undergraduate but is put into historical and political context by Freeman the scholar, 35 years later. It draws heavily on documents created at the time -- letters, reports, interviews, memos, newspaper stories, FBI files -- but is fleshed out with retrospective analysis. As events unfold, the campus conflicts of the Sixties take on a completely different cast, one that may surprise many readers.

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The Autobiography of Citizenship

Assimilation and Resistance in U.S. Education

Tova Cooper

At the turn of the twentieth century, the United States was faced with a new and radically mixed population, one that included freed African Americans, former reservation Indians, and a burgeoning immigrant population.  In The Autobiography of Citizenship, Tova Cooper looks at how educators tried to impose unity on this divergent population, and how the new citizens in turn often resisted these efforts, reshaping mainstream U.S. culture and embracing their own view of what it means to be an American. 


The Autobiography of Citizenship traces how citizenship education programs began popping up all over the country, influenced by the progressive approach to hands-on learning popularized by John Dewey and his followers. Cooper offers an insightful account of these programs, enlivened with compelling readings of archival materials such as photos of students in the process of learning; autobiographical writing by both teachers and new citizens; and memoirs, photos, poems, and novels by authors such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Jane Addams, Charles Reznikoff, and Emma Goldman. Indeed, Cooper provides the first comparative, inside look at these citizenship programs, revealing that they varied wildly: at one end, assimilationist boarding schools required American Indian children to transform their dress, language, and beliefs, while at the other end the libertarian Modern School encouraged immigrant children to frolic naked in the countryside and learn about the world by walking, hiking, and following their whims. 

Here then is an engaging portrait of what it was like to be, and become, a U.S. citizen one hundred years ago, showing that what it means to be “American” is never static.

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Babysitter

An American History

Miriam Forman-Brunell

On Friday nights many parents want to have a little fun together—without the kids. But “getting a sitter”—especially a dependable one—rarely seems trouble-free. Will the kids be safe with “that girl”? It's a question that discomfited parents have been asking ever since the emergence of the modern American teenage girl nearly a century ago. In Babysitter, Miriam Forman-Brunell brings critical attention to the ubiquitous, yet long-overlooked babysitter in the popular imagination and American history.

Informed by her research on the history of teenage girls' culture, Forman-Brunell analyzes the babysitter, who has embodied adults' fundamental apprehensions about girls' pursuit of autonomy and empowerment. In fact, the grievances go both ways, as girls have been distressed by unsatisfactory working conditions. In her quest to gain a fuller picture of this largely unexamined cultural phenomenon, Forman-Brunell analyzes a wealth of diverse sources, such as The Baby-sitter's Club book series, horror movies like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle, urban legends, magazines, newspapers, television shows, pornography, and more.

Forman-Brunell shows that beyond the mundane, understandable apprehensions stirred by hiring a caretaker to “mind the children” in one's own home, babysitters became lightning rods for society's larger fears about gender and generational change. In the end, experts' efforts to tame teenage girls with training courses, handbooks, and other texts failed to prevent generations from turning their backs on babysitting.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh

Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual hostility between the United States and Cuba--beyond invasions, covert operations, assassination plots using poison pens and exploding seashells, and a grinding economic embargo--this fascinating book chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. Since 1959, conflict and aggression have dominated the story of U.S.-Cuban relations. Now, LeoGrande and Kornbluh present a new and increasingly more relevant account. From Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Castro after the missile crisis, to Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Obama's promise of a "new approach," LeoGrande and Kornbluh reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, indicating a path toward better relations in the future.

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Back Channel to Cuba

The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana

William M. LeoGrande

History is being made in U.S.-Cuban relations. Now updated to tell the story behind the stunning December 17, 2014, announcement by President Obama and President Castro of their move to restore full diplomatic relations, this powerful book is essential to understanding ongoing efforts toward normalization. Challenging the conventional wisdom of perpetual conflict and aggression between the United States and Cuba since 1959, Back Channel to Cuba chronicles a surprising, untold history of bilateral efforts toward rapprochement and reconciliation. William M. LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh here present a remarkably new and relevant account, describing how, despite the intense political clamor surrounding efforts to improve relations with Havana, negotiations have been conducted by every presidential administration since Eisenhower's through secret, back-channel diplomacy. From John F. Kennedy's offering of an olive branch to Fidel Castro after the missile crisis, to Henry Kissinger's top secret quest for normalization, to Barack Obama's promise of a new approach, LeoGrande and Kornbluh uncovered hundreds of formerly secret U.S. documents and conducted interviews with dozens of negotiators, intermediaries, and policy makers, including Fidel Castro and Jimmy Carter. They reveal a fifty-year record of dialogue and negotiations, both open and furtive, that provides the historical foundation for the dramatic breakthrough in U.S.-Cuba ties.

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Bad Girls

Young Women, Sex, and Rebellion before the Sixties

Amanda H. Littauer

In this innovative and revealing study of midcentury American sex and culture, Amanda Littauer traces the origins of the "sexual revolution" of the 1960s. She argues that sexual liberation was much more than a reaction to 1950s repression because it largely involved the mainstreaming of a counterculture already on the rise among girls and young women decades earlier. From World War II–era "victory girls" to teen lesbians in the 1940s and 1950s, these nonconforming women and girls navigated and resisted intense social and interpersonal pressures to fit existing mores, using the upheavals of the era to pursue new sexual freedoms.

Building on a new generation of research on postwar society, Littauer tells the history of diverse young women who stood at the center of major cultural change and helped transform a society bound by conservative sexual morality into one more open to individualism, plurality, and pleasure in modern sexual life.

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Baltimore '68

Riots and Rebirth in an American City

Edited by Jessica I. Elfenbein, Thomas L. Hollowak and Elizabeth M. Nix

In 1968, Baltimore was home to a variety of ethnic, religious, and racial communities that, like those in other American cities, were confronting a quickly declining industrial base. In April of that year, disturbances broke the urban landscape along lines of race and class.

This book offers chapters on events leading up to the turmoil, the riots, and the aftermath as well as four rigorously edited and annotated oral histories of members of the Baltimore community. The combination of new scholarship and first-person accounts provides a comprehensive case study of this period of civil unrest four decades later.

This engaging, broad-based public history lays bare the diverse experiences of 1968 and their effects, emphasizing the role of specific human actions. By reflecting on the stories and analysis presented in this anthology, readers may feel empowered to pursue informed, responsible civic action of their own.

Baltimore '68 is the book component of a larger public history project, "Baltimore '68 Riots: Riots and Rebirth." The project's companion website (http://archives.ubalt.edu/bsr/index.html ) offers many more oral histories plus photos, art, and links to archival sources. The book and the website together make up an invaluable teaching resource on cities, social unrest, and racial politics in the 1960s. The project was the corecipient of the 2009 Outstanding Public History Project Award from the National Council on Public History.

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A Band of Noble Women

Racial Politics in the Women's Peace Movement

Melinda Plastas

A Band of Noble Women brings together the histories of the women’s peace movement and the black women’s club and social reform movement in a story of community and consciousness building between the world wars. Believing that achievement of improved race relations was a central step in establishing world peace, African American and white women initiated new political alliances that challenged the practices of Jim Crow segregation and promoted the leadership of women in transnational politics. Under the auspices of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), they united the artistic agenda of the Harlem Renaissance, suffrage-era organizing tactics, and contemporary debates on race in their efforts to expand women’s influence on the politics of war and peace. Plastas shows how WILPF espoused middle-class values and employed gendered forms of organization building, educating thousands of people on issues ranging from U.S. policies in Haiti and Liberia to the need for global disarmament. Highlighting WILPF chapters in Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Baltimore, the author examines the successes of this interracial movement as well as its failures. A Band of Noble Women enables us to examine more fully the history of race in U.S. women’s movements and illuminates the role of the women’s peace movement in setting the foundation for the civil rights movement

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The Banking Crisis of 1933

Susan Estabrook Kennedy

On March 6, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, less than forty-eight hours after becoming president, ordered the suspension of all banking facilities in the United States. How the nation had reached such a desperate situation and how it responded to the banking "holiday" are examined in this book, the first full-length study of the crisis.

Although the 1920s had witnessed a wave of bank failures, the situation worsened after the 1929 stock market crash, and by the winter of 1932-1933, complete banking collapse threatened much of the nation. President Hoover's stopgap measures proved totally inadequate, the author shows, and by March 4, the day of Roosevelt's inauguration, thirty-four states had declared banking moratoriums. Of special interest in this study is Ms. Kennedy's examination of relations between Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

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