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The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds Hardcover – May 15, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0618624270 ISBN-10: 0618624279

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 15, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618624279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618624270
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 7.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #200,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

To rescue the dead from oblivion, examine America's ethnic diversity and highlight shifts in cemetery mores over time, cultural historian Yalom (A History of the Breast) and her photographer son (Colonial Noir) traveled to more than 250 American cemeteries across the country. From the ancient Native American Etowah mounds in northern Georgia (abandoned around 1550, when the tribes were presumably destroyed by European diseases) to Rhode Island's Touro Jewish Cemetery, established in 1677 (it inspired a moving poem by Longfellow), Yalom examines the ways gender, class and culture affected how people were buried. New Orleans's cemeteries, for instance, show discrepancies between white and black residents: whites were buried in aboveground tombs, blacks in soggy earth that sometimes forced remains back up to the surface. Chicago's Waldheim holds Gypsies and anarchist Emma Goldman, while the moneyed aristocrats Marshall Field and Cyrus McCormick ended up in Graceland Cemetery. While rich, interesting nuggets abound, the mount of time and territory covered results in some shallow analysis. 80 b&w photos. (May 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Yalom is a cultural historian; her son, Reid, is an author and photographer. Together they have produced a curious, interesting, and surprisingly moving examination of the American practices of death ceremonies and burial ranging from pre-Jamestown Native American burial mounds to our contemporary, industrialized methods. The well-written text covers a variety of topics, including class and racial distinctions in cemeteries, religious tensions engendered by the building of a Muslim cemetery after 9/11, and an examination of how municipalities are coping with overcrowded burial sites. But it is the remarkable collection of more than 60 photographs that is likely to stir emotions. These include haunting images of lonely crosses at a Spanish mission, rows of well-manicured gravesites in California, and ancient tombstones with barely legible epitaphs at a Jewish cemetery in South Carolina. Both general readers and those with a specific interest in this unusual subject should find value in this work. --Jay Freeman

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Margo Davis on August 3, 2008
Format: Hardcover
There are several reviews here about the Yaloms' (mother and son) book on American cemeteries. Since the reviews focus principally on the text, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the moving black and white photographs by Reid Yalom, a photographer from San Francisco.

First of all, it was a wise decision to place the photographs in a distinct portfolio in the front of the book. In this way, they avoid becoming only dispersed illustrations for Marilyn's well-written text. The photographs are historical documents, of course, but they are so much more. Each image stands regally on its own, framed by a skillful and sensitive fine art photographer.

Take a moment to meander through the portfolio of images-- letting go of the details about where and when, much as you would stroll through these cemeteries themselves on a quiet Sunday afternoon. After all, the cemetery AND the photograph are places to meander, to explore, to meditate and to REST. Resting your eyes and thoughts on one of Reid's poetic images gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect.

There is as much life in these images of graves and cold stones as there is death. Reid has managed to inject a feeling for a live human presence to spite the fact that there is only one image with a live human figure, Plate 46. In perusing these photographs, we feel a warm human spirit circling around, not some eerie ghost of the past, but a strong immediate presence of those who are our loved ones.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By T D Brown on May 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Where do you bury?" This question at the end of the first chapter of Marilyn Yalom's The American Resting Place epitomizes this readable, thought-provoking narrative. It is one of hundreds of tidbits of observation, research, and lore that together make this book a bracing feast of cultural history, and more. Yalom's deep compassion for the human condition is leavened with spritely curiosity, sharp intelligence, and understated humor. And that's just the text. The American Resting Place offers readers an extraordinary visual and tactile bonus in the beautiful photographs by Reid Yalom. These black-and-white prints, reproduced in high-quality, glossy plates, at once illustrate the text and stand alone as chiaroscuro masterworks of past and present, life and death, irony and hope.

Like the best cultural historians, Yalom finds the universe in a grain of sand - from the ancient mounds of Native Americans to Ground Zero. In between, we are taken on a strange yet satisfyingly concatenated journey that spans four centuries of American history, one grounded, necessarily, in geography. We hopscotch with the Conquistadores from Florida to New Mexico. Through the burial customs employed - tombstones or not, permanent graves or lost bodies - we experience great waves of history, famine and plenty, natural disasters, catastrophic epidemics, the dominions and disappearances of different religions. In one burial ground in Charleston, Yalom describes stones marking the graves of Jews of a strict Orthodox Sephardic tradition that, strange to think, included veterans of the Revolutionary, 1812, and Civil Wars. Strong as is that Jewish tradition, it is muddled by secular and Christian funerary motifs. Similarly, Christian and African iconography decorates graves in rural Georgia.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Larry Hatlett on May 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I was first drawn to this book by the cover: peaceful photograph and arresting title. Then came the photographs, both haunting and beautiful. Then the big surprise was how quickly I became engaged in the way religion, culture and the cemetery intertwine. Using the American resting place as the constant, Marilyn manages to teach so much about where we all came from and the changes that bring us to the present moment. Cemeteries may seem boring (not at night), but this book brings them alive in a way that is fascinating and educational. The American Resting Place is not just for the academic or intellectual. Everyone will come away better off for having read it. Don't miss this book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By J. Kaplan on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A great read! "The American Resting Place" is an extraordinary book. Written by Marilyn Yalom, who is best known for her scholarly works on women, and photographed by her son Reid, this book presents American cemeteries over a period of 400 years so as to recreate our cultural history, both textually and visually. Despite its vast scope, the book reads smoothly and managed to hold my attention from beginning to end . I especially liked the chapter on Chicago's cemeteries, with their great religious and ethnic diversity, and the one on New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The photos are outstanding. No wonder that Newsweek magazine (which called my attention to this book) said "The American Resting Place" was a fascinating way of illuminating our history. Kudos to Dr Yalom and her son Reid, an outstanding photographer.
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