“American Dreams” mean different things to different people, but for historian and University of Texas at Austin Professor H.W. Brands, it’s the title of his latest book. “American Dreams: The United States Since 1945” (Penguin Press, June 2010) takes a historical journey from the end of World War II to the Obama administration.
“After spending a lot of time dealing with the nineteenth century, I decided to return to the twentieth – and, not coincidentally to that part of American history I’ve lived through (most of it, anyway). It’s almost like writing a memoir,” says Brands of his latest endeavor.
Beginning his story with a victorious America — a nation arising more powerful after WWII and with the Great Depression a thing of the past –anything seemed optimistically possible. He tells the story of what comes next, interweaving six decades of our nation’s triumphs and woes: from its politics and war to its culture and society.
In a recent review, The Economist coined the book as “…a primer or refresher on America—from the Vietnam War to the civil-rights movement to the space race to the sexual shenanigans of Bill Clinton—this is a crisp, balanced and easily digestible narrative.”
Covering a lot of historical ground, Brands says what he finds the most interesting is the emergence of technologies (cable TV, cell phones, the Internet) that put people in instant touch with the whole world, with each other, and with the knowledge that humans have amassed over centuries.
“My students and children have a hard time understanding how their elders, including me, lived without this stuff,” Brands says. “And I had to remind myself how we did.”
Brands hopes his readers will take away an appreciation that most of the problems we face today are similar to problems we’ve faced before.
“We’ve always managed to find our way through,” Brands says. “This is no guarantee we’ll find our way through again, but it gives reason for hope.”
Brands will have a book signing at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 16 at BookPeople located at 603 N Lamar Blvd Austin, Texas.