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The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation Paperback – June 14, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0195173253 ISBN-10: 0195173252

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (June 14, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195173252
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195173253
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,728 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When a small group of 17th-century English religious dissenters crossed the Atlantic Ocean in search of a place where they could worship God in their own unique fashion, they were following a dream. These early settlers, the Puritans, paved the way for subsequent American dreamers, and, Cullen (Born in the U.S.A.: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition) argues, "you'll never really understand what it means to be an American of any creed, color, or gender if you don't try to imagine the shape of that dream." Subsequent versions of the American Dream have pushed to the fore and, in the process, changed the shape of the nation. Cullen particularly focuses on the founding fathers and the Declaration of Independence ("the charter of the American Dream"); Abraham Lincoln, with his rise from log cabin to White House and his dream for a unified nation; and Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of racial equality. Our contemporary version of the American Dream seems rather debased in Cullen's eyes-built on the cult of Hollywood and its outlandish dreams of overnight fame and fortune. The book desires to be suggestive rather than exhaustive (as the subtitle "short history" suggests), and there are numerous gaps between the chapters where entire half-centuries and important leaders pass without mention. Its straightforward and engaging narrative style ought to appeal to general readers of American history, and its broader exploration of freedom, equality and shared ideals offers a nice dose of depth as well. 8 b&w photos.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Cullen explores American history through its ideals and notions that feed goals from which success and happiness are perceived and secured. At different times the American dream has meant different things. At the founding of the nation, Cullen asserts, the Declaration of Independence embodied the American ideal that all men are created equal. Even with the obvious contradiction of slavery, the essence of this dream allowed for the possibility of racial equality, class mobility, and home ownership--all values that at some point have centered the collective American consciousness. Cullen explores the ideas, hopes, and accomplishments of both native-born Americans and immigrants in developing consensus around the ideals. As the dream varies, Cullen tracks its shifts and the complexities that result in our cultural unity of valued ideals. From the initial ideals of the Declaration of Independence, Cullen moves to the expansion and inclusion of the dream through Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of racial equality to, finally, home ownership as the commonly accepted notion of the American dream. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

Jim Cullen was born in Queens, New York, and attended public schools on Long Island. He received his B.A. in English from Tufts University, and his A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in American Civilization from Brown University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Brown and Sarah Lawrence College. He is currently chair of the History Department at the Fieldston School in New York City and a book review editor at the History News Network. He is married to historian Lyde Cullen Sizer and has four children.

Jim is the author of a dozen books, which include "Sensing the Past: Hollywood Stars and Historical Visions" (Oxford University Press, 2013), "The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation" (Oxford, 2003) and "Born in the USA: Bruce Springsteen and the American Tradition" (HarperCollins, 1997). His next book, "A Brief History of the Modern Media," is slated for publication by Wiley-Blackwell in 2014.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Carina M. Kolodny on January 10, 2007
Format: Paperback
Cullen's book is not only an easy read but incredibly enjoyable and informative. Mr. Cullen has an incredible understanding of American history and the elusive words and ideas that drive it. This book changed the way I look at my country...
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David George Moore on June 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an intellectual history of an important idea in American life. Cullen is a fine historian whose love for the subject matter shines forth on each page.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Karl on September 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a timely addition to my collection. It's an informative, insightful and accessible companion to contemporary discussions of the current state of the collective American experience.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RLDP on April 18, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A short and very interesting read. I found many thought provoking and profound insights in this short book that explores the various ways in which Americans have defined the "American Dream" over several centuries. Also a good reminder that we are still defining and pursuing that dream, but getting it right requires work and attention by all.
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