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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327280
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327281
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #87,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Welcome to Lakewood, California, the world's largest suburb and the subject of an oddly mesmerizing account of its creation by D. J. Waldie. Waldie describes how bean fields were drawn up, sectioned off and divided up--leaving tracts for small houses of similar design. The author changes while the land around him does, in a story of how people make places and, more so, places make people. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Waldie, public information officer of Lakewood, Calif., as a boy moved with his family to one of that town's suburbs that was designed and built nearly overnight during the 1950s. In this unusual and compelling memoir organized into a series of short, episodic essays, some of which were previously published in journals, the author describes both a place and the mindset of a decade. Built on a grid, the subdivision of identical houses on similar lots was owned by three businessmen whose Jewish background would have prevented them from living there at that time. Homes were quickly sold to young couples?many of the men were WWII veterans?purchasing a house for the first time. The design of a shopping mall within Lakewood that was opened in 1952 included a half-mile civil defense fallout shelter and reflected the fear of Soviet attack that was mirrored by the attitudes of the Roman Catholic nuns who taught Waldie in school. Photos.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

D. J. Waldie was named one of L.A.'s most influential interpreters by Los Angeles Magazine in 2006 and called "a gorgeous distiller of architectural and social history" by the New York Times in 2007.

In 2008, novelist and memoirist Patricia Hampl, writing in "Commonweal," said of Holy Land: A Sunurban Memoir, "(It) captivated me when it first came out. It still astonishes. It's no easier to describe now than it was before it became a classic of American autobiography. Waldie's range is staggering - from intimate, touchingly respectful revelations of family life and spiritual reality to a precise history of land development and public policy regarding water use (and don't imagine this is the boring part). Waldie has written nothing less than the spiritual autobiography of the midcentury American suburban dream. It proves to be a subject worthy of tragedy and of his remarkable elegy."

A screenplay (adapted from Holy Land by the author) will be produced by James Franco in 2013-2014.

D. J. Waldie is a contributing writer at Los Angeles magazine and a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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This little book is a gem, and Waldie's writing is what makes it sparkle.
S. Kay Murphy
Mr. Waldie explicates the convoluted manner that the tract home builders entwine into local politics to squeeze out every dime from the raw land.
exoner8r@ix.netcom.com
I am surprised how much I have enjoyed reading this required book for a class in L.A. Literature.
Kristine L. Vermillion

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on March 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Though subtitled "a suburban memoir", D.J. Waldie's Holy Land is a lot more than that. It is a history of the concept of suburbia, a portrait of a specific place, a chronicle of one man's relationship to that place. Formally, it is a collection of 316 prose poems, plus photographs. There is no other book like it.
You don't have to be a suburbanite or a suburban exile to appreciate Waldie's incisive and insightful writing, nor do you need to be particularly interested in the tale being told. Like most truly great books, Holy Land fuses itself to your mind regardless of what is already there. The tiny chapters accumulate, and once you have read a few, reverberations begin, harmonies and discords, and soon the whole becomes much greater than the single parts. It is a thrilling reading experience.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I can't be nearly as eloquent as the other reviewers but I found this to be a truly powerful book. My WWII-generation parents bought their first house in Lakewood in 1952 and lived there for 15 years. I have always had a fascination with Lakewood, and as corny as it may seem, always felt a kind of spiritual connection to the place. While certainly an in-depth look at the history of "my city", Waldie just as expertly explores issues such as existence and mortality. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 23, 2004
Format: Paperback
I taught this book as the last reading in an undergraduate course on Western suburban history. The students responded with tremendous enthusiasm. They recognized much that was familiar in Waldie's strange hometown (a strangeness common to suburbs all over the West). This book crystallized a feeling of loss for many students. Suburbs like Lakewood, or like the tract house developments going up today all over the region and nation, feel emptied of history for the children who grow up there. Their names (Lakewood?) like their green lawns are imposed, divorced from the land's human and natural history. Children feel this and they know something is missing. This book opened up the opportunity for students to express their own feelings and experiences of suburban life.
Note I also recommend you see the wonderful poetry of Kevin Hearle, _Each Thing We Know is Changed Because We Know It_ (1994)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 5, 1999
Format: Paperback
Holy Land is a work which reflects. Like a mirror, it reflects those of us who have grown up in suburbia. It shows how the planned community has shaped our lives and our identities. Who we are is largely defined by those who have laid out the grid work of our neighborhoods. It also reflects the historical accidents which brought suburbs into being. Would suburbs have been necessary without the Great Depression, World War II, the automobile or the dust bowl? It is emotionally reflective because the writing style and the content causes the reader to pause and reflect upon the neighborhood grids, and patterns which have shaped and defined the reader. It is spiritually reflective because the content forces the spiritual questions, "Is there anything more to life?" "Is life really nothing more than surviving in a landscape which is a grid designed by a developer who's primary purpose was to make a profit?" If the reader's answer is "no" then I suppose Holy Land is a depressing piece of non-fiction. It is also spiritually reflective because it illustrates how humans define space. Through human definition some space becomes sacred, other space becomes desirable and other space becomes functional. The reader is forced to reflect upon how the space in which their life is experienced is defined. In its very size and shape Holy Land is reflective of suburbia. A book that can be read before the 8:00 p.m. prime time begins. A book without strings attached. A book of poignant memories to which all veterans of suburbia can relate. This book however should not be read in a single sitting, although that would be very easy to do. I recommend that the reader read passages and then go for a walk or a drive through their neighborhood and reflect upon their own life and neighborhood. Then return back to the book and read some more If nothing else it will be a reflective experience.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Johnston VINE VOICE on April 19, 2009
Format: Paperback
I was raised in the suburbs, thought I hated them, and at 18 headed for "the big city" as so many young people do. I have lived in a number of them ever since, never returing to the pristine confines of suburbia. So the concept of the suburbs holds a special place in my heart as a place of the mysteries of youth, the possibility for adventure, simple beauty and the pains of growing up (which as one ages ages miraculously become fond memories). To this day I sometimes venture out in the suburbs of my city and just let myself float dreamily along the wide streets, manicured lawns, high school basketball courts and shopping centers of these ignored and misunderstood lands. There is nothing like the sounds of lawnmowers on a sunny Sunday afternoon or the sounds of a baseball game played by children who think the world is theirs for the taking, that they will live forever, and that dreams come true or at least always have a fighting chance. This book, I think, captures all that through the recollections of the author of his hometown of Lakewood, CA. I have been there often enjoying just what he sees: the simple, quiet dignity of a people trying to carve out a slice of order amidst the chaos and uncertainty of the city and the universe. This book captures that in a very clever series of short chapters about the history of Lakewood and his experiences as a lifelong resident. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. I was so very glad that I happened upon it. I cannot imagine anyone, especially American, not finding at least some value in this book. And I would also recommend it for those outside of the United Stated who want a deeper understanding of the way most Americans have and continue to live in this century and the last. This is travel guide like no other. An absolute treasure.
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