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Reno's Big Gamble: Image and Reputation in the Biggest Little City Hardcover – October 22, 2008

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 332 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (October 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700615946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700615940
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,605 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Barber’s book . . . provides a fascinating account of one community’s attempt to manage its image and reputation.”—The Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Alicia Barber’s book . . . is a welcome corrective to the prevalence of studies that cover much narrower periods.”—American Historical Review

Reno’s Big Gamble is a compelling study of one of America’s most enigmatic and adaptable cities.”—Southern California Quarterly

“Barber’s book . . . should be read by anyone interested in how a city responds to external and internal demands.”—H-URBAN

“An excellent contribution to the study of how image and reality interact and affect one another.”— --Western Historical Quarterly

From the Back Cover

"No place has worked harder than 'the biggest little city in the world' to shape its identity and reputation. Alicia Barber tells a fascinating story about the ways that insiders and outsiders have constructed and reconstructed Reno's image in pursuit of the big bonanza of economic growth."--Carl Abbott, author of The Metropolitan Frontier: Cities in the Modern American West and Greater Portland: Urban Life and Landscape in the Pacific Northwest

More About the Author

Alicia Barber, Ph.D., is a historian, writer, and consultant whose interests range from the American West and urban history to historic preservation and tourism. She has written and taught on such subjects as tourism, cities, museum studies, memory and place, and oral history, and directed the University of Nevada Oral History Program from 2009-2013. A member of the Nevada State Board of Museums and History, Alicia writes for a wide range of publications, curates and consults on public history projects, and appears regularly in public forums as an expert on history and cultural tourism in Northern Nevada. Alicia earned her doctorate in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, and lives in Reno with her husband and daughter.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a Reno resident, I so appreciate the research and labors of this fine author. The book is "solid," entertaining, informative, enlightening, and again, just appreciated.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Bo Bernhard on February 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
University of Nevada, Reno assistant professor Alicia Barber has written what feels like an autobiography of a city, so intimate and so honest are its (self-)renderings. This book pulls off the considerable literary achievement of turning an entire town into a compelling character riding atop a very human plot. Readers will finish this book with a deep affection for Reno, having observed up close its self-doubt, its bold presentations of self, its boom times, its failed chapters, and most importantly, its love-hate relationship with its own reputation.
The latter theme is one that no doubt resonates with those of us who live in Las Vegas - where locals still cringe at the ubiquitous what-happens-here witticisms - but upon reflection, this is a theme with broader resonance as well. After all, residents of virtually every city alternately revel in and recoil at certain aspects of their own popular portrayals. Whether it's New Yorkers' bluntness (or in more generous self-portraits, their "honesty"), Los Angelenos' superficiality ("attention to the aesthetic"?), or Las Vegans' sinfulness ("love of freedom"?), any number of communities might be said to share this love-hate characteristic.
For that matter, surely many of us share this characteristic at a more personal level.
This characterological tendency falls under a category we might call "inferiority complexities:" a state in which one is simultaneously proud of, and embarrassed about, the less attractive parts of one's own reputation. In Reno's case, in the middle of all of this reputational mayhem lies the age-old impulse we call gambling -- along with a handful of associated sordid industries that run the deviance gamut (from prizefighting to prostitution).
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