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Homesickness: An American History 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-0195371857
ISBN-10: 0195371852
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Editorial Reviews


"[An] indispensable new book, which belongs on the shelf of important works of American revisionism....Matt shows that we are reluctant immigrants, hesitant pioneers, unenthusiastic warriors, and ambivalent modernizers who really would have rather skipped all the unpleasantness and stayed home." - Peter Duffy, The New Republic

"What Matt's new reading of American history reveals is a culture crucially shaped by homesickness and nostalgia, a people at once deeply sentimentally tied to particular places and people, and simultaneously driven away from these beloved places by ambition, honor, duty, a desire to improve the fortunes of the family-or by war, drought, famine, land reclamation, or urban renewal...Her work is important not only because it is meticulously researched and skillfully written, but because it integrates aspects of the human condition that are intimately intertwined and too often separated: the economic and the emotional."-Emily Wilkinson, The Weekly Standard

"Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Homesickness: An American History is original, refreshingly broad, and persuasive. With deep archival research and an eye for the telling detail, Susan Matt tells a powerful, enduring story of an important but often overlooked emotion in US history. Any proper understanding of the American national character is incomplete without this book."-Mark M. Smith, author of Camille, 1969: Histories of a Hurricane

"This lively and sweeping book gives a concrete history to what seems like a universal emotion, by simultaneously jogging the reader's own memories while situating them in the broad context of U.S. history from the Pilgrims' Landing to the Frequent Flyer. Filling her book with vivid anecdotes of real people-from aspiring immigrants to runaway slaves to our troops in Iraq-Susan J. Matt finds that homesickness is the very heart of the American Dream. Writing at the cutting edge of deeply researched cultural history and cementing her status as a master of analytical storytelling, she helps us understand why being American truly means that 'you can't go home again.'"-Scott A. Sandage, author of Born Losers: A History of Failure in America

"A richly panoramic social and cultural history, extensively researched and beautifully written. As Susan Matt argues, historians have been far more apt to study those who came to America, rather than those who yearned to leave and return to previous homes. Focusing on the many Americans who sought to leave, or who yearned for another 'home' as they moved about the country, Matt provides a fascinating addition to several intersecting literatures on immigration, on westward expansion, on forced migration and slavery, on the Civil War and World Wars, and on the rise of modernity and 'alienated' individuals."-Alice Fahs, University of California, Irvine

"People dying of homesickness? Susan Matt richly describes the history of an emotion that was at times so deeply felt that it was considered a deadly disease. With this sweeping and yet detailed survey, Matt demonstrates that emotions have histories. As Americans have learned to restrain this one, we may have forgotten how powerful this longing can be."-Claude S. Fischer, author of Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character

"Challenges the foundational stereotype of Americans as adventurous, intrepid, eagerly mobile individualists .Matt provides ample and convincing documentary and ethnographic evidence that Americans are nothing if not ambivalent about their mobility and nostalgic and homesick for the homes they leave behind." --CHOICE

About the Author

Susan J. Matt is Presidential Distinguished Professor of History at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. She is the author of Keeping Up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (September 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195371852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195371857
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #505,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Laine on October 10, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This heavily researched and footnoted book is a really interesting eye opening read. Anyone who is interested in genealogy, history, or the history of emotional/mental/physical illnesses will find a new perspective here. Nostalgia and homesickness, words coined in the colonial period, were once considered real and possibly fatal illnesses. From the Puritans through the slave trade, Trail of Tears and Mexican immigration, Susan Matt traces a real disease worthy of discharge from the Civil War to our modern feeling that children need to get over it and grow up. If you were sent to summer camp to help you do just that and were homesick even for a day, you will identify with all the people in the book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Ellis 77 on June 24, 2014
Format: Paperback
I enjoyed the glimpse into the history of movement and nostalgia. The idea of the huddled masses moving to the states and never looking back has been publicized for generations, even though, there is a deeper history of people missing their homeland or neighborhood. This book is good for anyone who has moved to a new city, community, or country and needs the reassurance that others have been in the same situation and survived.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In a nation that’s been around for over 200 years, a surprising number of Americans still trace their ancestry to the countries where their families immigrated from before they came to the U.S. Among the many persistent myths of U.S. immigration, is the one of eternal optimism and relentless enthusiasm despite the hard work and formidable distances from home. Yet few likely consider what their ancestors went through emotionally when leaving behind their birthplace and all things familiar to them to make a home in the United States. Historian Susan J. Matt discusses this in her book Homesickness: An American History. Matt chronicles how Americans from the early settlers to the present have long missed home – even as, in more recent centuries, they encourage dismissing this feeling of persistent longing.
Matt documents how the reception of the word “homesickness” has fundamentally changed, not even coined as a word until the eighteenth century. Before the seventeenth century, the word “nostalgia” did not even exist, but through well-documented accounts throughout the book, one can read the painful emotions of longing and sadness associated with the term as we know it today. As one migrant, Enos Christman, described in a letter to his fiancée written in 1849 as he traveled from Pennsylvania to California:
“My feeling and emotions on leaving my friends and my native land can better be imagined than described. I left all that is near and dear and turned my face toward a strange land, expecting to be absent two or three years hoping in that time to realize a fortune… Often memory carries me back… and were I of a desponding temperament I should wish myself back again… (63).”
Though he had no word for it, what he was experiencing was homesickness.
Read more ›
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By ilona adams on April 1, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Awesome, very well written account of a little known malady.
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By Jamie on August 29, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very interesting and insightful.
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