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Behold, America - Sarah Bartlett Churchwell

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Behold, America - a history of America First and the American Dream
Sarah Bartlett Churchwell
Paperback / softback
UK Publication Date

A GUARDIAN AND A SMITHSONIAN BOOK OF THE YEARA SUNDAY TIMES, OBSERVER AND I-PAPER SUMMER READ'Enormously entertaining' Sunday Times'Fascinating' New Statesman'An enthralling book' Guardian'The American dream is dead,' Donald Trump said when announcing his candidacy for president in 2015. How would he revive it? By putting 'America First'.
The 'American Dream' and 'America First' are two of the most loaded phrases in America today, and also two of the most misunderstood. The American Dream began as a pledge for equality rather than as a dream of supremacy and 'making it big'. America First has not just served as an isolationist term, but as an early slogan of the Ku Klux Klan with surprising links to the present. In 1927, a KKK riot led to the arrest of seven men - among them a certain Fred C. Trump.
Both phrases were born nearly a century ago and instantly tangled over capitalism, democracy and race, coming to embody opposing views in the battle to define the soul of the nation. Behold, America recounts the unknown history of these two expressions using the voices that helped shape that debate, from Capitol Hill to the newsroom of the New York Times, students to senators, dreamers to dissenters. As America struggles again to project a shared vision, to itself and to the world, Sarah Churchwell argues that the meanings and history of these terms need to be understood afresh so that the true spirit of America can be reclaimed. Insightful and revelatory, Behold, America overturns everything we thought we knew about the American dream, America First and the battle for the identity of modern America.

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Sarah Churchwell is Professor of American Literature and Chair of Public Understanding of the Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. She is the author of Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby and The Many Lives of Marilyn Monroe. Her literary journalism has appeared widely in newspapers including the Guardian, New Statesman, Financial Times, Times Literary Supplement and New York Times Book Review, and she comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for television and radio, where appearances include Question Time, Newsnight and The Review Show. She has judged many literary prizes, including the 2017 Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction, the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction, and she was a co-winner of the 2015 Eccles British Library Writer's Award. Her new book, Behold, America: A History of America First and the American Dream, will be published by Bloomsbury in May 2018.

A ripping yarn ... Behold, America is an enthralling book ... Passionate, well-researched and comprehensive

Excoriating, brilliant
Big Issue, Summer Reads - Ali Smith

Enormously entertaining. Churchwell is a careful and sensitive reader, writes with great vigour and has a magpie's eye for a revealing story
Sunday Times - Dominic Sandbrook

A fascinating history of the two intersecting tropes of modern America
New Statesman

Lively and eminently readable … Churchwell has produced a timely and clearly argued book that makes a clear case for the intellectual parallels between the first third of the 20th century and our own
Financial Times

[An] enlightening new cultural history … The shadow of the 45th President hangs over all 300 pages of Behold, America, a book designed expressly to demonstrate just how that history rhymes with the present … While it is indeed a history of two phrases, Behold, America is also a history of the people who used them … An American in the UK, [Churchwell] has the benefit of an outside perspective on the country of her birth, which is prone to national self-delusions just as grand as Britain's, if not more so. Behold, America punctures many of them
The i

The Trump administration has prompted a veritable landslide of books about the current state of US culture and politics. Literary journalist and professor Sarah Churchwell digs a little deeper than most, providing a thoughtful long view on a highly topical subject
BBC History Magazine, Summer Reads

This is a timely book. It's also a provocative one. In addition to offering some historical perspective, Churchwell has a point to make … She's an elegant writer, and when 'America First' and 'the American dream' come head-to-head in her book during the run-up to World War II, the unexpected (and alarming) historical coincidence begin to resonate
New York Times Book Review

Churchwell takes us on a whirlwind tour of the first decades of the 20th century … We hear the discordant voices of American reformers, immigrants, reactionaries and nativists, satirists and polemicists, Ku Klux Klansmen and ersatz Hitlers … Churchwell is well attuned to the nuances of the national conversation
Literary Review

The figure of Donald Trump looms over Sarah Churchwell's new history of American national identity, which highlights the ugliest features of the country's ingrained traditions of intolerance and bigotry. But it is the current president's father, Fred, who first leaps off the page in a startling cameo appearance ... Churchwell is at her best when she relates in horrific detail the once commonplace public lynching of blacks, both in the North and in the South, and she is astute about the crackpot/booster strains in American culture

Churchwell's thorough, fascinating history of the birth of the America First movement uses the past to throw disturbing light on present-day politics in the US
i - What to read in 2018

Churchwell's thoroughness in delineating America's decade-by-decade bigotry through primary sources from speeches to newspapers to novels is a marvel. But it is more than a history lesson. She's constructing the case for how the US elected Donald Trump, a catastrophe many of us struggle to understand
Prospect Magazine

Keyword Index
National characteristics, American - History - 20th century.|American Dream.|Nationalism - United States - History - 20th century.|United States - Social conditions - 20th century.
Country of Publication
Number of Pages
ix, 356

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