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Race in American Television: Voices and Visions That Shaped a Nation

Greenwood. 2 vols. Jan. 2021. 805p. ed. by David J. Leonard & Stephanie Troutman Robbins. ISBN 9781440843051. $204. REF
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In this intensive work, editors Leonard (Sch. of Languages, Cultures, and Race, Washington State Univ.) and Troutman Robbins (Coll. of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Univ. of Arizona) lay out the U.S.’s long and complicated history of racism, as seen through the television shows and performers that appeared in homes across the country for decades. The book explores stereotypes that it says “demonized and dehumanized” society’s most vulnerable. These were later supplanted by changes that purported to make television inclusive; this work makes the case that these changes actually rendered race invisible and led to an era of so-called racial color blindness. The book highlights recent protests and demands for change to media representations of Black Americans in particular. Especially noteworthy are examinations of news media’s struggle to determine its role in society; sexism in television; and Sesame Street’s experiments in making more inclusive content and characters.
VERDICT This important reference guide chronicles both television history and the story of racial attitudes in America; it will also empower readers to seek out inclusive programming and look with fresh eyes at favorite shows.
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