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Visions of Belonging: Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960 (Popular Cultures, Everyday Lives) Hardcover – September 1, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0231121705 ISBN-10: 0231121709 Edition: 1St Edition

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Editorial Reviews


Smith's treatment gives readers much to consider...Highly recommended.


Visions of Belonging is a monumental work of cultural history... Judith Smith has challenged the common wisdom... And made a powerful contribution.

(Elaine Tyler May Journal of Interdisciplinary History 1900-01-00)

Smith's Visions of Belonging is a masterpiece of interdisciplinary scholarship. Research, narrative, and analysis are all exemplary, making the book a 'must read' on the topic of post-war American cultural and social history.

(Canadian Review of American Studies 1900-01-00)

A powerful & meticulously researched study of fourteen stories that helped to plot the boundaries of cultural citizenship.

(Dara Orenstein Journal of American Ethnic History 1900-01-00)

[It] is full of vitality and is bound to be used, cited, and assigned to generations of students.

(Joseph Hawes Journal of American History)

Smith has written an important book that will serve as a great resource for historians of American postwar culture and politics.

(Renee Romano American Historical Review)

A very remarkable and extremely useful book.

(Paul Buhle Film International 1900-01-00)

[This] consistently nuanced and impeccably informed analysis... raises provocative questions.

(Crista DeLuzio H-Net Reviews)

Highly readable and sensitively written.

(Martin Fradley Film Quarterly)

[A] rich, fascinating, and important book.

(William Graebner American Studies 1900-01-00)


This is a wonderful book. There is a brilliant specificity to this project; Smith's re-readings of well known texts reveal just how much cultural expressions of this era wittingly and unwittingly registered the time period's enormous social transformations. Her work explores the links between patriarchy and patriotism by showing how cultural stories about the family make citizenship legible and credible to ordinary people.

(George Lipsitz, author of American Studies in a Moment of Danger)|

There is nothing else like this wonderful book among histories of post-World War II America. In the aftermath of the great victory against fascism and on through the darkening 1950s, playwrights, TV scriptwriters, film directors, bestselling novelists and their enraptured audiences struggled to reimagine the American Everyman and Everywoman and in the process reconceive the country. As she investigates the riches of popular culture high and low, Judith Smith captures both the hopefulness and myopia of their moment. Visions of Belonging is an extraordinary blend of tenderness and intellectual power.

(Christine Stansell, Princeton University)|

Judith Smith takes the major popular culture texts of the postwar era--such as I Remember Mama, A Raisin in the Sun, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and Death of a Salesman--and brilliantly reveals how much they have to say about prevailing attitudes toward ethnicity, gender, class, race, sexuality, family, and national identity. Reading this book was a revelation to me.

(Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America)|

Judith Smith skillfully demonstrates how central issues of race and the inclusion of African Americans in American democracy were to the postwar period. Her vivid and absorbing account of the narratives and representations of the American family in the literature, film, and television productions of the period provide an insightful new way to understand the contest for democracy in the twentieth century.

(Kevin Gaines, University of Michigan)|

We have grown so accustomed to sharing the pain, laughter, and triumphs of 'ordinary families'--from the Waltons to the Osbournes--in U.S. popular culture that it is easy to suppose such imagined intimacies have always existed. Judith Smith profoundly shows us that such visions of belonging not only have a history, but one that redefines the broader stories of world war and cold war, of liberalism and the left, and, above all, of the definitive ways that the popular became multiethnic and the ambiguous ways that it became interracial.

(David Roediger, University of Illinois)

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More About the Author

Judith Smith grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. When she moved to Cambridge Massachusetts in 1966 to attend college, she was hoping she could follow Bob Dylan's path and learn songs like "Baby Let me Follow You Down" from Rick Von Schmidt "in the green fields of Harvard University" but they were nowhere in sight. Since 1981, she has taught history and American Studies, first at Boston College, and then at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Hollywood Reporter listed Becoming Belafonte: Black Artist, Public Radical, her new book, as one of the ten best music books for 2014.Read more about her publications at

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