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Behold, America


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What does America stand for in the twenty-first century? Behold, America confronts this urgent question by looking at the story behind two of the most contentious phrases in the American political playbook: the 'American dream' and 'America first'

About the Author

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 and she comments regularly on arts, culture, and politics for television and radio. She lives in London.


A ripping yarn ... Behold, America is an enthralling book ... Passionate, well-researched and comprehensive * Guardian *
Excoriating, brilliant -- Ali Smith * Big Issue, Summer Reads *
Enormously entertaining. Churchwell is a careful and sensitive reader, writes with great vigour and has a magpie's eye for a revealing story -- Dominic Sandbrook * Sunday Times *
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 *
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 * Spectator *
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 -- What to read in 2018 * i *
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 *

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