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The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York Paperback – November 12, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (November 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199930341
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199930340
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #640,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review


"Osman has told the story with great insight and drama through an eclectic and well-selected set of historical sources and a felicitous writerly prose." --American Historical Review


"[B]rilliant...For those looking for an incredibly thought-provoking, detailed account of the motivations, confrontations, and at times hypocrisies, of the gentrification movement, Suleiman Osman's The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn is a must-read." --Carolina Planning Journal


"Absorbing." --The New Yorker


"The most important current book on New York." --New York Post


"Leaves the reader deeply informed.... The story of Brooklyn's gentrification needed to be written, and Osman does it well." --Times Literary Supplement


"Insightful.... An exceptionally well-researched book that will retain validity for years to come." --Library Journal


"A timely and compelling history." --Buildings & Landscapes


"An impressive new book...a rich and refreshingly ambivalent account of how a new urban ideal--one riddled with contradictions--emerged in Brooklyn between the end of World War II and the late 1970s. The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn is a first-rate work of history, especially for a debut effort by a young scholar. Osman impresses with sweeping ruminations on the meanings of modernism and what he dubs the 'literature of gentrification' while also remaining grounded in nuts-and-bolts archival research."
--Bookforum


"A brilliant study of an American 'pro urban ideal,' which opened up just after World War II, when it seemed all America was rejecting cities and their values. Suleiman Osman shows Brooklynites fighting each other for decades. Did anybody win? We can see now, decades later, how intellectually fruitful this fight has been, how it has 'blossomed into a postindustrial slow growth movement' that is still growing."--Marshall Berman, author of All That Is Solid Melts Into Air


"Finally we have a history of gentrification that isn't primarily an exercise in identifying good guys and bad guys. And what a history it is! In this superb study, Suleiman Osman gives us a highly readable and well balanced account of the complex forces at work in Brownstone Brooklyn in the 1960s and 70s, a pivotal era for America and its cities. By looking closely at one small part of the urban landscape, Osman has been able to give us one of the most satisfying accounts to date of some of the fundamental shifts in American life in an era when the industrial economy bottomed out, a venerable New Deal coalition collapsed, new activist groups appeared, a new conservatism was born, and American inner city neighborhoods became a crucible for new attitudes about architecture, urban life and the role of place and community activism. In the process we get incisive, often startling, insights into figures we thought we knew."--Robert Bruegmann, author of Sprawl: A Compact History


"Inventing Brownstone Brooklyn gives readers a rich and compelling story of competing urban visions. The power and inner contradictions of the gentrification impulse come alive in these pages."-Daniel T. Rodgers, author of Age of Fracture


"In this richly nuanced account, Suleiman Osman follows Brooklyn's gentrifiers-small in number but outsized in influence-as they reclaimed brownstones and remade urban space. Osman's discussion of the connections between gentrification, urban reform politics, and the 1960s counterculture is especially illuminating."-Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania


"This fine-grained history portrays gentrifiers as the first Moderns who are both rooted in the growth of big business and the professions and rebelling against the soulless city built by corporations and the state. Osman adroitly traces the paradoxes of gentrification from an elusive search for authenticity to the fears of the urban middle class."--Sharon Zukin, author of Naked City: The Death and Life of Authentic Urban Places


"Osman...sheds new light on the history of the Brownstone belt and how it began to convey the charm and authenticity gentrifiers admire so much. Although the story Suleiman tells is specific to the Western quadrant of one New York borough, the lesson is universal." --American Prospect


About the Author


Suleiman Osman is Assistant Professor of American Studies at George Washington University. He grew up in Brooklyn's Park Slope and now lives in Washington, D.C.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By chrisfromnewhaven on April 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
Though this book does an even-handed job at confronting a very topical issue, its writing style was almost more than I could bear. As interesting as the subject matter and arguments are, it is possibly the most repetitious writing I have ever read. The chapter on Brooklyn Heights is particularly guilty in this regard. The length of the book could have been halved if all the redundant paragraphs had been excised. Many times the same argument is repeated with only slightly different wording, merely exchanging current jargon from one academic field for that of another, but without elaboration. It's too bad because the book seems decently researched (though I would have gladly exchanged redundant paragraphs for more first-hand accounts or quotations from primary sources), and the thinking behind its argument and their treatment is good.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Steven on March 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm reading the conclusion right now (had to stop to answer some emails), but this is the most comprehensive look at the transformation of Brooklyn Heights on the market. It gets dense at parts, but it's well worth the effort to read it from cover to cover, as Osman takes a chronological approach to his study of the area.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on September 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This book describes the gentrification of northwestern Brooklyn from about the 1950s to the 1970s. Osman devotes less attention than I expected to the last few decades, even though Brooklyn's gentrification got as much publicity in the 1990s and 2000s as before (if not more so). When I interviewed for jobs in Manhattan in the 1990s, I don't remember thinking of anything outside Brooklyn Heights as an upper-middle-class neighborhood. By now, of course, several other neighborhoods have crossed the line from "transitional" into "solidly nice."

But otherwise, I learned a lot from Osman's book. To name
a few examples:

*I had always thought that the current neighborhood designations had existed for a century or more. But in the 1950s, there was no place called Boerum Hill or Cobble Hill. There was an undifferentiated Irish/Italian Catholic industrial working class area in inner Brooklyn, and a few wealthy blocks in what is now Brooklyn Heights. Cobble Hill was born when a few people formed a civic association and, after poring through old maps, discovered a reference to a Cobble Hill Fort existing during the Revolutionary War- so they named the area Cobble Hill. Similarly, Boerum Hill was created when someone discovered that some of the area was owned by the Boerum family in the 1700s- so she called the area Boerum Hill.

*I had always thought that gentrification in Brooklyn pretty much started in the 1980s and 1990s. But Brooklyn Heights started to attract well-off migrants from Manhattan in the 1950s, and other neighborhoods were not far behind.

*Today, we might think of brownstones as upper-class.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
extremely detailed history about the neighborhood. historical and social description of the evolution of this unique area of Brooklyn. Especially interesting if you live there!
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