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We Had a Dream: A Tale of the Struggle for Integration in America Hardcover – September 3, 1998

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rolling Stone contributor Howard Kohn applies a novelistic touch to his depiction of the lives of several black and white residents of Prince Georges County, Maryland, a stable, middle-class, predominately African American enclave just outside Washington, D.C. Kohn's prose, although rooted in a noble effort, tends toward the melodramatic, especially in his portrayals of one couple's interracial romance and a black lawyer's politically incorrect defense of the daughter of a white policeman who killed her African American boyfriend. --Eugene Holley, Jr.

From Publishers Weekly

Kohn's (Who Killed Karen Silkwood?) examination of the fruits of the civil rights struggle in one community has produced a narrative that's as provocative as it is powerful. Although it reads like fiction, it is filled with real-life ironies. The subject is Prince George's County, Md., just outside of Washington, D.C., and its fascinating, but less than idyllic, transformation from a white working-class haven into what the New York Times Magazine called "the closest thing to utopia that black, middle-class families can find in America." Neighbors live the contradiction of a new order. Bruce and Camilla are teenagers who grow to adulthood and come to terms with their interracial love relationship. Political boss Mike Miller dukes it out with Sue Mills, an anti-busing champion, and Gloria Lawlah, a NAACP veteran, for the heart and soul of the changing community and a static Democratic Party. The Stricklers, a white couple, spend a lifetime tweaking racial barriers and welcoming black neighbors to the community while raising a color-blind daughter. Dr. Gordon, Bruce's father, treats wounded blacks, but doesn't necessarily like them, even while they deal with him fondly. Well-to-do black teenagers mimic gangsta dress and attitude. Kohn brilliantly weaves together these many divergent stories into one larger narrative that is more about social "integration" than about political "desegregation." What happens, he asks, when we're forced together in the confines of a community? There is no solution here; rather, Kohn gives us heady questions and unfinished answers, all beautifully recounted.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; annotated edition edition (September 3, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684808749
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684808741
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,383,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
A fascinating case study of a suburban American place undergoing striking demographic change. In a sense I think the title, subtitle and coverflap words may do Kohn a disservice. The potential reader may view this as somewhat of an academic/theoretical review of race relations rather than what it really is, a collection of intriguing stories about the loosely overlapping lives of a number of white and black residents of Prince Georges County, MD. I was pulled along simply to find out what happened to these people, as well as to what would happen to this place, as it swung from majority white and rural to majority black and urban in a few years. The most complicated story, that of Elvira White, bogged down some. But there is intrigue and pleasant surprise throughout. I would love to have learned even more detail about the racial, social and economic change in the key community, Hillcrest Heights, as well as in the whole county. It's a place literally in my backyard - I do wonder if a reader from another part of the country will find it as fascinating as I did. I still recommend it heartily to anyone eager for highly readable, anecdotal clues to the evolving co-existence of people of different races, as well as to those who just want good stories about real people.
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