The Sprawl

Coffee House. Aug. 2020. 256p. ISBN 9781566895828. pap. $16.95. SOC SCI
Diamond (Searching for John Hughes) examines the American suburb through the lens of popular culture. Modern suburbs have roots in 19th-century utopian and religious groups. In 19th-century America, these communities were viewed as steps toward a better future, yet redlining excluded Black people from this future. Diamond shows how the teen movies of John Hughes reflected their absence, while the recent TV series Get Out portrayed the outsider status that Black people experience within these communities. As seen in Back to the Future, the once-promised future led to degraded towns and main streets. TV’s The Twilight Zone illustrates suburbanites’ paranoia and anxiety, whether kids fear haunted houses or adults gangs. The works of David Lynch depicted the darkness under the suburban surface from murder to adultery. Teen boredom and desire to escape the car-centric suburbs has been heard through the decades from Chuck Berry to Jonathan Richman. Despite the failings of the suburbs, Diamond rests in their familiarity and has hopes that these places can exist as a diverse space.
VERDICT Will resonate with Generation X and older Millennials. Recommended for readers interested in popular culture or the history of the American suburbs.

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