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Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and the California Dream) Hardcover – July 10, 2009


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Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and the California Dream) + Material Dreams: Southern California through the 1920s (Americans & the California Dream) + The Dream Endures: California Enters the 1940s (Americans & the California Dream)
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Product Details

  • Series: Americans and the California Dream
  • Hardcover: 564 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 10, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195153774
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195153774
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #612,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This volume concludes Starr's unprecedented seven-volume history of a single American state. While out of chronological order (Starr covered the period 1990–2003 in Coast of Dreams) and often ranging far beyond the book's stated dates, this final volume is of the same high quality as the previous ones: spirited in style, comprehensive and long. Starr covers a broad range of subjects: demography, water, freeways, politics, culture, the state's major cities, race relations. As in all other volumes, he hangs his story on sketches of many of California's often larger-than-life individuals, among them Buffy Chandler, Cardinal McIntyre, Pat Brown, Dave Brubeck, Clark Kerr, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Herb Caen. But too often biography substitutes for analysis. Letting others speak for him, Starr rarely lets an authorial voice shine through or a critical stance intrude. The result is wonderfully readable descriptive history, but not a history that leaves readers with a fresh take on the Golden State as a whole. That's a pity, for no one knows more about California than Starr. We could have used at least his concluding thoughts on the state's past and future. 30 b&w photos. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review


"With the publication of Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963, Kevin Starr has completed his transformation from the state's greatest historian to its indispensable one.... His eight-volume series, published under the umbrella title Americans and the California Dream, constitutes as comprehensive a social, political, ethnographic, cultural and philosophical history as any state is ever likely to achieve. It was conceived in dazzling ambition and masterfully executed. The author's scholarship and erudition animate each volume without once falling into the trap of self-regard. It is, in sum, an achievement made even more remarkable by the fact that it is wonderfully readable."--Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times


"This final volume is of the same high quality as the previous ones: spirited in style... [a] wonderfully readable descriptive history...."--Publishers Weekly


"Monumental."--Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic


"Starr's masterly accounts of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco."--The Economist


"Who besides Kevin Starr could cover the entire social, economic, political and artistic history of California during the era and somehow extrapolate it into an engaging, dazzling account of the emerging American Century."--Phyllis Filiberti Butler, San Francisco Chronicle


"Starr's magnum opus-eight volumes to date, and still not complete- will endure the test of years, not least for its heft and its dogged ambition. Students of California history-of the history of the American West generally-have no choice but to confront this impressive oeuvre penned over decades by the State Librarian of California Emeritus, now a professor at the University of Southern California."--Books & Culture


"Kevin Starr's Golden Dreams...is marvellously cohesive and concise, and Starr's engaging style makes it a pleasure to read." --Times Literary Supplement Online


"Without parallel. Each volume in the series demonstrates again that this is one of the commanding achievements of American letters, and of the state he celebrates." --Western American Literature



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Customer Reviews

Still, for the perswon interested in California History, it's a good read.
William G. Schwent
As a Midwesterner who felt the siren song myself and moved here as a young adult, I found this book to be as entertaining as it is informative.
Morgan McConnell
Fortunately for both the author and his readers, California seems to have long had more than its share of memorable characters.
Jay C. Smith

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jay C. Smith on August 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance, 1950-1963 (Americans and the California Dream)
Kevin Starr is himself a wondrous California resource. He seems to know all things California and this is the eighth volume in his "Americans and the California Dream" series. Opening it I felt like I was entering one of those latter-day off-beat supermarkets originating in the Golden State, encountering a cornucopia and expecting to be surprised by some of what I might find (or not). I was not disappointed.

Starr has a scholar's command of the material and a home-boy's affection for his subject. His great strength is as a compiler, distiller, and packager of the extensive historical literature on the state. This particular volume covers his own formative years (he is a San Francisco native) and it shows, favorably.

Golden Dreams is fact-jammed, but Starr renders it palatable by typically telling us just enough to humanize each of hundreds of persons whom he has selected to portray the culture, society, and politics of this period. Fortunately for both the author and his readers, California seems to have long had more than its share of memorable characters. Wisely, he does not adhere strictly to the 1950-1963 time boundaries when it is helpful to have retrospective context or to project toward later consequences.

The book includes five major sections covering suburbanization, the major cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego), politics and public works, selected aspects of culture, and what Starr calls dissenting opinions (primarily environmental and civil rights issues).
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Craig S. Harrison on September 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In recent years I have read all eight of Kevin Starr's "Americans and the California dream" histories. Golden Dreams: California in an Age of Abundance is consistent with the previous volumes and has a powerful saliency for me because it focuses on the 1950s. I grew up in Southern California during this era and I suspect that that my Diaspora generation will find this volume to have exceptional meaning. Starr defines the 1950s as 1950-1963, reasoning that that the 1950s continued culturally until the murder of JFK. Starr's chronicle has been a voyage of discovery of my roots, a journey stimulated by advancing age and curiosity about the forces that shaped my life.

Starr writes that this period "survives in popular imagination as a stable landscape resting atop tectonic plates that would soon result in earthquakes as fissures." The reviewer for the Economist quibbled that Golden Dreams does not strictly adhere to the 1950-1963 time period. Starr has never made a fetish of strictly adhering to any era that was the focus of his previous volumes. There are instances where understanding an era requires background about an earlier period, and occasionally it makes sense to foreshadow future events or trends whose roots are in the era of immediate focus. A discussion of the importance of Big Sur to California literature in the 1950s demanded more than simply discussing Henry Miller. The prior residences of Robinson Jeffers and Jack London made Big Sur attractive to Miller and much of local resident John Steinbeck's work was written before the 1950s.

Starr's approach avoids the lazy stereotypes that have often made the 1950s a convenient scapegoat. Golden Dreams is neither an indictment nor an unqualified celebration of this period.
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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful By La BugZ on July 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've read all of the other volumes of Mr. Starr's history of California and think for the most part they are quite fascinating and have a knack for giving forth little known facts as well as well known ones in a way that is not banal, but fresh and interesting. But I have been appalled by the number of errors in spelling: 'Liseux' for Lisieux; 'Glen Rowell' for Galen Rowell; 'Tehema County' for Tehama County. There were others but why belabor a point? The problem with this kind of error occurring is that is challenges the credibility of the writing. For example, I thought I'd read it wrong except that I hadn't, that in Mr. Starr's book California he gave the year of the Moscone-Milk murder as 1979 and it having been such a monumental event in the lives of most northern Californians, the date was 1978. I gave the book away as I didn't want to face any more such errors which should not have happened. Nonetheless, there was much to be learned from this volume and all of the volumes on the history of the state.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By W Boudville HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 12, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Kevin Starr is the pre-eminent living historian on California. This latest tome completes a magnificent series, and it spans what some might regard as an idyllic postwar era. The California Dream refers to the image that California represented to many, both within the state and elsewhere, during that time. He describes how the population drew massively, due to myriad attractions, like the weather and affordable land and many jobs.

The cutoff date of 1963 is somewhat arbitrary. As with the other books of the series, the choice of cutoffs is hazy. In the current narrative, it sometimes ventures into the late 60s when dealing with certain topics.

The cover image is well chosen. It evokes the zeitgeist, with a large car (automobiles drove the growth and culture of Los Angeles, for example) and the streamlined house. In a section on architecture, we see mention of the works of Neutra, Schindler, Eemes and others, that helped define what is now considered the classic look and feel of that era.

But the book is also careful to point out that California was not a paradise for all. The civil rights struggles of several groups are outlined. For instance, the NAACP would win some pivotal lawsuits that reduced discrimination against Negros [and other minorities] in education and housing. A parallel and complementary effort went on by Mexican Americans, especially in the farming sector. The ordeals of Japanese, Chinese and Filipinos are documented, and these were interestingly different, as made clear from the narrative.

While in the lengthy account of jazz, even here is seen discrimination, in how Negro musicians were often slighted [to put it mildly] by the broader [white] society.

To some readers, the civil rights accounts might see cursory.
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