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The Great Unknown

Japanese American Sketches

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The Latino Generation

Voices of the New America

Mario T. García

Latinos are already the largest minority group in the United States, and experts estimate that by 2050, one out of three Americans will identify as Latino. Though their population and influence are steadily rising, stereotypes and misconceptions about Latinos remain, from the assumption that they refuse to learn English to questions of just how "American" they actually are. By presenting thirteen riveting oral histories of young, first-generation college students, Mario T. Garcia counters those long-held stereotypes and expands our understanding of what he terms "the Latino Generation." By allowing these young people to share their stories and struggles, Garcia reveals that these students and children of immigrants will be critical players in the next chapter of our nation's history.

Collected over several years, the testimonios follow the history of the speakers in thought-provoking ways, reminding us that members of the Latino Generation are not merely a demographic group but rather real individuals, as American in their aspirations and loyalty as the members of any other ethnic group in the country.

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Maximum Harm

The Tsarnaev Brothers, the FBI, and the Road to the Marathon Bombing

Michele R. McPhee

In Maximum Harm, veteran investigative journalist Michele R. McPhee unravels the complex story behind the public facts of the Boston Marathon bombing. She examines the bombers’ roots in Dagestan and Chechnya, their struggle to assimilate in America, and their growing hatred of the United States—a deepening antagonism that would prompt federal prosecutors to dub Dzhokhar Tsarnaev “America's worst nightmare.” The difficulties faced by the Tsarnaev family of Cambridge, Massachusetts, are part of the public record. Circumstances less widely known are the FBI’s recruitment of the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as a “mosque crawler” to inform on radical separatists here and in Chechnya; the tracking down and killing of radical Islamic separatists during the six months he spent in Russia—travel that raised eyebrows, since he was on several terrorist watchlists; the FBI’s botched deals and broken promises with regard to his immigration; and the disenchantment, rage, and growing radicalization of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar, along with their mother, sisters, and Tamerlan’s wife, Katherine.

Maximum Harm is also a compelling examination of the Tsarnaev brothers’ movements in the days leading up to the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, the subsequent investigation, the Tsarnaevs’ murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, the high-speed chase and shootout that killed Tamerlan, and the manhunt in which the authorities finally captured Dzhokhar, hiding in a Watertown backyard. McPhee untangles the many threads of circumstance, coincidence, collusion, motive, and opportunity that resulted in the deadliest attack on the city of Boston to date.

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The Modern Art of Dying

A History of Euthanasia in the United States

Shai J. Lavi

How we die reveals much about how we live. In this provocative book, Shai Lavi traces the history of euthanasia in the United States to show how changing attitudes toward death reflect new and troubling ways of experiencing pain, hope, and freedom.

Lavi begins with the historical meaning of euthanasia as signifying an "easeful death." Over time, he shows, the term came to mean a death blessed by the grace of God, and later, medical hastening of death. Lavi illustrates these changes with compelling accounts of changes at the deathbed. He takes us from early nineteenth-century deathbeds governed by religion through the medicalization of death with the physician presiding over the deathbed, to the legalization of physician-assisted suicide.

Unlike previous books, which have focused on law and technique as explanations for the rise of euthanasia, this book asks why law and technique have come to play such a central role in the way we die. What is at stake in the modern way of dying is not human progress, but rather a fundamental change in the way we experience life in the face of death, Lavi argues. In attempting to gain control over death, he maintains, we may unintentionally have ceded control to policy makers and bio-scientific enterprises.

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Not Even Past

Barack Obama and the Burden of Race

Thomas J. Sugrue

Barack Obama, in his acclaimed campaign speech discussing the troubling complexities of race in America today, quoted William Faulkner's famous remark "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." In Not Even Past, award-winning historian Thomas Sugrue examines the paradox of race in Obama's America and how President Obama intends to deal with it.

Obama's journey to the White House undoubtedly marks a watershed in the history of race in America. Yet even in what is being hailed as the post-civil rights era, racial divisions--particularly between blacks and whites--remain deeply entrenched in American life. Sugrue traces Obama's evolving understanding of race and racial inequality throughout his career, from his early days as a community organizer in Chicago, to his time as an attorney and scholar, to his spectacular rise to power as a charismatic and savvy politician, to his dramatic presidential campaign. Sugrue looks at Obama's place in the contested history of the civil rights struggle; his views about the root causes of black poverty in America; and the incredible challenges confronting his historic presidency.

Does Obama's presidency signal the end of race in American life? In Not Even Past, a leading historian of civil rights, race, and urban America offers a revealing and unflinchingly honest assessment of the culture and politics of race in the age of Obama, and of our prospects for a postracial America.

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Obama, Clinton, Palin

Making History in Elections 2008

Liette Gidlow

Election 2008 made American history, but it was also the product of American history. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin smashed through some of the most enduring barriers to high political office, but their exceptional candidacies did not come out of nowhere. In these timely and accessible essays, a distinguished group of historians explores how the candidates both challenged and reinforced historic stereotypes of race and sex while echoing familiar themes in American politics and exploiting new digital technologies._x000B__x000B_Contributors include Kathryn Kish Sklar on Clinton's gender masquerade; Tiffany Ruby Patterson on the politics of black anger; Mitch Kachun on Michelle Obama and stereotypes about black women's bodies; Glenda E. Gilmore on black women's century of effort to expand political opportunities for African Americans; Tera W. Hunter on the lost legacy of Shirley Chisholm; Susan M. Hartmann on why the U.S. has not yet followed western democracies in electing a female head of state; Melanie Gustafson on Palin and the political traditions of the American West; Ronald Formisano on the populist resurgence in 2008; Paula Baker on how digital technologies threaten the secret ballot; Catherine E. Rymph on Palin's distinctive brand of political feminism; and Elisabeth I. Perry on the new look of American leadership.

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Opting for Elsewhere

Lifestyle Migration in the American Middle Class

Brian Hoey

"Do you get told what the good life is, or do you figure it out for yourself?" This is the central question of Opting for Elsewhere, as the reader encounters stories of people who chose relocation as a way of redefining themselves and reordering work, family, and personal priorities. This is a book about the impulse to start over. Whether downshifting from stressful careers or being downsized from jobs lost in a surge of economic restructuring, lifestyle migrants seek refuge in places that seem to resonate with an idealized, potential self. Choosing the "option of elsewhere" and moving as a means of remaking self through sheer force of will are basic facets of American character, forged in its history as a developing nation of immigrants with a seemingly ever-expanding frontier. Building off years of interviews and research in the Midwest, including areas of Michigan, Brian Hoey provides an evocative illustration of the ways these sweeping changes impact people and the communities where they live and work as well as how both react--devising strategies for either coping with or challenging the status quo. This portrait of starting over in the heartland of America compels the reader to ask where we are going next as an emerging postindustrial society.

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The Other Great Migration

The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941

Bernadette Pruitt

The twentieth century has seen two great waves of African American migration from rural areas into the city, changing not only the country’s demographics but also black culture. In her thorough study of migration to Houston, Bernadette Pruitt portrays the move from rural to urban homes in Jim Crow Houston as a form of black activism and resistance to racism.

Between 1900 and 1950 nearly fifty thousand blacks left their rural communities and small towns in Texas and Louisiana for Houston. Jim Crow proscription, disfranchisement, acts of violence and brutality, and rural poverty pushed them from their homes; the lure of social advancement and prosperity based on urban-industrial development drew them. Houston’s close proximity to basic minerals, innovations in transportation, increased trade, augmented economic revenue, and industrial development prompted white families, commercial businesses, and industries near the Houston Ship Channel to recruit blacks and other immigrants to the city as domestic laborers and wage earners.

Using census data, manuscript collections, government records, and oral history interviews, Pruitt details who the migrants were, why they embarked on their journeys to Houston, the migration networks on which they relied, the jobs they held, the neighborhoods into which they settled, the culture and institutions they transplanted into the city, and the communities and people they transformed in Houston.

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Primitive America

The Ideology of Capitalist Democracy

Paul Smith

One of the most confounding aspects of American society—the one that perhaps most frequently perplexes observers both domestic and foreign—is the vast contradiction between what anthropologists might term the “hot” and “cold” elements in the culture. The hot encompasses the dynamic and progressive aspects of a society dedicated to growth and productivity, marked by mobility, innovation, and optimism. In contrast, the cold embodies rigid social forms and archaic beliefs, fundamentalisms of all kinds, racism and xenophobia, anti-intellectualism, cultural atavism, and ignorance—in short, the primitive.

 

For cultural critic Paul Smith, the tension between progressive and primitive is a constitutive condition of American history and culture. In Primitive America, Smith contemplates this primary contradiction as it has played out in the years since 9/11. Indeed, he writes, much of what has happened since—events that have seemed to many to be novel and egregious—can be explained by this foundational dialectic.

 

More radically still, Primitive America attests that this underlying stress is driven by America’s unquestioned devotion to the elemental propositions and processes of capitalism. This devotion, Smith argues, has become America’s quintessential characteristic, and he begins this book by elaborating on the idea of the primitive in America—its specific history of capital accumulation, commodity fetishism, and cultural narcissism. Smith goes on to track the symptoms of the primitive that have arisen in the aftermath of 9/11 and the commencement of the “Long War” against “violent extremists”: the nature of American imperialism, the status of the U.S. Constitution, the militarization of America’s economy and culture, and the Bush administration’s disregard for human rights.

 

An urgent and important engagement with current American policies and practices, Primitive America is, at the same time, an incisive critique of the ideology that fuels the ethos of America’s capitalist culture.

 

Paul Smith is professor of cultural studies at George Mason University and the author of numerous books, including Clint Eastwood: A Cultural Production (Minnesota, 1993).

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Radical Chapters

Pacifist Bookseller Roy Kepler and the Paperback Revolution

by Michael Doyle

Long a hub for literary bohemians, countercultural musicians, and readers interested in a good browse, Kepler's Books and Magazines is one of the most well-known independent bookstores in American history. When owner Roy Kepler opened the store in 1955 he changed the book industry forever as a pioneer in the “paperback revolution.” The notion of selling texts in inexpensive paperbound volumes was revolutionary in the publishing trade and Kepler's focus on stocking these inexpensive books put him at the forefront of the movement. Paperback-selling was not the only revolution Kepler supported, however. In Radical Chapters, Doyle sheds light on Kepler’s remarkable contributions not only to the book industry but also to pacifism. Recalling the tumultuous politics of the last century, he highlights Kepler’s achievements in advocating radical pacifism during World War II, anti-nuclear activism during the Cold War era, and the anti-Vietnam War movement. During those decades, Kepler’s Books played an integral role, creating a community and space to exchange ideas for such notable figures as Jerry Garica, Joan Baez, and Stewart Brand. Doyle’s fascinating chronicle captures the man who inspired that community and offers a moving tribute to his legacy.

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