Synopses & Reviews
In Picture Windows, Baxandall and Ewen shatter naïve stereotypes of suburban life, replacing them with a clear and compelling historical analysis that situates the development of the suburbs in relation to the pivotal issues of postwar American life. They examine the years from World War II to the present, chronicling the transformation of rural lands into tidy, uniform subdevelopments that promised all of the comforts of postwar technology.The building of the suburbs, the authors argue, was conducted in the context of heated debates over the American standard of living, visionary planners and architects’ attempts to solve the “housing crisis,” women’s liberation, and racial segregation. Baxandall and Ewen use interviews with hundreds of residents of three Long Island suburbs to weave together a story about suburbs past and present, and ultimately to insist on the centrality of suburban experience in the second half of the twentieth century.
When Baxandall and Ewen (both American studies, State U. of New York-Old Westbury) interviewed women in several Long Island communities about their real lives, they found that the stereotypes about suburbs have little to do with actual experience. Surmising from the interviews -- as well as diaries, scrapbooks, and other archival sources for earlier in the century -- they conclude that the suburbs have long been and still are centers of social and architectural experimentation where white, black, immigrant, gay, straight, old, young, married, divorced, and single people have struggled to improve their lives.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 261-289) and index.