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Madalyn Murray O'Hair
In 1964, Life magazine called Madalyn Murray O’Hair “the most hated woman in America.” Another critic described her as “rude, impertinent, blasphemous, a destroyer not only of beliefs but of esteemed values.”
In this first full-length biography, Bryan F. Le Beau offers a penetrating assessment of O’Hair’s beliefs and actions and a probing discussion of how she came to represent both what Americans hated in their enemies and feared in themselves. Born in 1919, O’Hair was a divorced mother of two children born out of wedlock. She launched a crusade against God, often using foul language as she became adept at shocking people and making effective use of the media in delivering her message. She first gained notoriety as one of the primary litigants in the 1963 case Murray v. Curlett which led the Supreme Court to ban school prayer. The decision stunned a nation engaged in fighting “godless Communism” and made O’Hair America’s most famous—and most despised—atheist.
O’Hair led a colorful life, facing assault charges and extradition from Mexico, as well as the defection of her son William, who as an adult denounced her. She later served as Hustler publisher Larry Flynt’s chief speech writer in his bid for President of the United States.
Drawing on original research, O’Hair’s diaries, and interviews, Le Beau traces her development from a child of the Depression to the dictatorial, abrasive woman who founded the American Atheists, wrote books denouncing religion, and challenged the words “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” on American currency, the tax exempt status of religious organizations, and other activities she saw as violating the separation of church and state.
O’Hair remained a spokesperson for atheism until 1995, when she and her son and granddaughter vanished. It was later discovered that they were murdered by O’Hair’s former office manager and an accomplice.
Fast-paced, engagingly written, and sharply relevant to ongoing debates about school prayer and other religious issues, The Atheist tells the colorful life-story of a woman who challenged America’s most deeply held beliefs.
Alice C. Andrews and James W. Fonseca, whose Atlas of American Higher Education was hailed for its unique approach to statistical information and whose research for this new Atlas has been prominently featured in the Wall Street Journal and the Boston Globe, here provide a geographic window onto the most pressing social issues of our time.
Too often, information about America--its culture and politics, affluence and poverty, health and medical care, crime and education--is presented in the form of dry statistics that do not convey critical trends and patterns. In this unprecedented volume, two respected geographers present dozens of maps that depict, at a glance, the topography of America's social well-being. Among the many topics covered are: cultural diversity and immigration; income, poverty and unemployment; lifestyle risks including drug abuse, smoking and auto fatalities; access to medical care; medical costs; status of women, children, and senior citizens; marriage and divorce; teen pregnancy and non-marital births; school dropouts; abortion; death rates from AIDS, cancer, suicide and infant mortality; violent crime and homelessness. The Atlas of American Society maps out a comprehensive picture of an America rarely seen in such breadth.
The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture
Tourism, Culture, and Race in the Big Easy
Honorable Mention for the 2008 Robert Park Outstanding Book Award given by the ASA's Community and Urban Sociology Section
Mardi Gras, jazz, voodoo, gumbo, Bourbon Street, the French Quarter—all evoke that place that is unlike any other: New Orleans. In Authentic New Orleans, Kevin Fox Gotham explains how New Orleans became a tourist town, a spectacular locale known as much for its excesses as for its quirky Southern charm.
Gotham begins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina amid the whirlwind of speculation about the rebuilding of the city and the dread of outsiders wiping New Orleans clean of the grit that made it great. He continues with the origins of Carnival and the Mardi Gras celebration in the nineteenth century, showing how, through careful planning and promotion, the city constructed itself as a major tourist attraction. By examining various image-building campaigns and promotional strategies to disseminate a palatable image of New Orleans on a national scale Gotham ultimately establishes New Orleans as one of the originators of the mass tourism industry—which linked leisure to travel, promoted international expositions, and developed the concept of pleasure travel.
Gotham shows how New Orleans was able to become one of the most popular tourist attractions in the United States, especially through the transformation of Mardi Gras into a national, even international, event. All the while Gotham is concerned with showing the difference between tourism from above and tourism from below—that is, how New Orleans’ distinctiveness is both maximized, some might say exploited, to serve the global economy of tourism as well as how local groups and individuals use tourism to preserve and anchor longstanding communal traditions.
The Personal Correspondence of British Immigrants to North America in the Nineteenth Century
2008 United States Postal System's Rita Lloyd Moroney Award
In the era before airplanes and e-mail, how did immigrants keep in touch with loved ones in their homelands, as well as preserve links with pasts that were rooted in places from which they voluntarily left? Regardless of literacy level, they wrote letters, explains David A. Gerber in this path-breaking study of British immigrants to the U.S. and Canada who wrote and received letters during the nineteenth century.
Scholars have long used immigrant letters as a lens to examine the experiences of immigrant groups and the communities they build in their new homelands. Yet immigrants as individual letter writers have not received significant attention; rather, their letters are often used to add color to narratives informed by other types of sources.
Authors of Their Lives analyzes the cycle of correspondence between immigrants and their homelands, paying particular attention to the role played by letters in reformulating relationships made vulnerable by separation. Letters provided sources of continuity in lives disrupted by movement across vast spaces that disrupted personal identities, which depend on continuity between past and present. Gerber reveals how ordinary artisans, farmers, factory workers, and housewives engaged in correspondence that lasted for years and addressed subjects of the most profound emotional and practical significance.
Excavating Manhattan’s Lost Places of Leisure
Winner of the Publication Award for Popular Culture and Entertainment for 2009 from the Metropolitan Chapter of the Victorian Society in America
Named to Pop Matters list of the Best Books of 2009 (Non-fiction)
From the lights that never go out on Broadway to its 24-hour subway system, New York City isn't called "the city that never sleeps" for nothing. Both native New Yorkers and tourists have played hard in Gotham for centuries, lindy hopping in 1930s Harlem, voguing in 1980s Chelsea, and refueling at all-night diners and bars. The slim island at the mouth of the Hudson River is packed with places of leisure and entertainment, but Manhattan's infamously fast pace of change means that many of these beautifully constructed and incredibly ornate buildings have disappeared, and with them a rich and ribald history.
Yet with David Freeland as a guide, it's possible to uncover skeletons of New York's lost monuments to its nightlife. With a keen eye for architectural detail, Freeland opens doors, climbs onto rooftops, and gazes down alleyways to reveal several of the remaining hidden gems of Manhattan's nineteenth- and twentieth-century entertainment industry. From the Atlantic Garden German beer hall in present-day Chinatown to the city's first motion picture studio—Union Square's American Mutoscope and Biograph Company—to the Lincoln Theater in Harlem, Freeland situates each building within its historical and social context, bringing to life an old New York that took its diversions seriously. Freeland reminds us that the buildings that serve as architectural guideposts to yesteryear's recreations cannot be re-created—once destroyed they are gone forever. With condominiums and big box stores spreading over city blocks like wildfires, more and more of the Big Apple's legendary houses of mirth are being lost. By excavating the city's cultural history, this delightful book unearths some of the many mysteries that lurk around the corner and lets readers see the city in a whole new light.
An American History
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.
Clergy Misconduct in Modern America
Child-molesting priests, embezzled church treasures, philandering ministers and rabbis, even church-endorsed pyramid schemes that defraud gullible parishioners of millions of dollars: for the past decade, clergy misconduct has seemed continually to be in the news.
Is there something about religious organizations that fosters such misbehavior? Bad Pastors presents a range of new perspectives and solidly grounded data on pastoral abuse, investigating sexual misconduct, financial improprieties, and political and personal abuse of authority. Rather than focusing on individuals who misbehave, the volume investigates whether the foundation for clergy malfeasance is inherent in religious organizations themselves, stemming from hierarchies of power in which trusted leaders have the ability to define reality, control behavior, and even offer or withhold the promise of immortality. Arguing that such phenomena arise out of organizational structures, the contributors do not focus on one particular religion, but rather treat these incidents from an interfaith perspective.
Bad Pastors moves beyond individual case studies to consider a broad range of issues surrounding clergy misconduct, from violence against women to the role of charisma and abuse of power in new religious movements. Highlighting similarities between other forms of abuse, such as domestic violence, the volume helps us to conceptualize and understand clergy misconduct in new ways.
Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse
Contrary to the stereotype of the “strong Black woman,” African American women are more plagued by domestic violence than any other racial group in the United States. In fact, African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than white women and about two and a half times more than women of other races and ethnicities. This common portrayal can hinder black women seeking help and support simply because those on the outside don't think help is needed. Yet, as Hillary Potter argues in Battle Cries: Black Women and Intimate Partner Abuse, this stereotype often helps these African American women to resist and to verbally and physically retaliate against their abusers. Thanks to this generalization, Potter observes, black women are less inclined to label themselves as "victims" and more inclined to fight back.
Battle Cries is an eye-opening examination of African American women's experiences with intimate partner abuse, the methods used to contend with abusive mates, and the immediate and enduring consequences resulting from the maltreatment. Based on intensive interviews with 40 African American women abused by their male partners, Potter's analysis takes into account variations in their experiences based on socioeconomic class, education level, and age, and discusses the common abuses and perceptions they share. Combining her remarkable findings with black feminist thought and critical race theory, Potter offers a unique and significant window through which we can better understand this understudied though rampant social problem.
The Struggle for Self -Control in Modern America
In recent years, Peter N. Stearns has established himself as the foremost historian of American emotional life. In books on anger, jealousy, "coolness," and body image, he has mapped out the basic terrain of the American psyche.
Now Stearns crowns his work of the past decade with this powerful volume, in which he reveals the fundamental dichotomy at the heart of the national character: a self-indulgent hedonism and the famed American informality on the one hand, and a deeply imbedded repressiveness on the other.
Whether hunting and gathering tribe or complex industrial civilization, every social group is governed by explicit and implicit guidelines on how to behave. But these definitions vary widely. The Japanese worry less about public drunkenness than Americans. Northern Europeans adhere to stricter standards than Americans when it comes to littering. Today, we swear more now and spit less, discuss sex more and death less.
With an emphasis on sex, culture, and discipline of the body, Stearns traces how particular anxieties take root, and how they express inherent tension in contemporary standards and a stubborn nostalgia for the previous nineteenth century regime.
Battleground of Desire explodes common wisdom about Americans in the twentieth century as normless and tolerant, emphasizing that most of us follow a litany of rules, governing everything from adultery to bad breath.