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Homesickness: An American History [Hardcover]

Susan J. Matt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: £19.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

29 Sep 2011
Homesickness today is dismissed as a sign of immaturity, what children feel at summer camp, but in the nineteenth century it was recognized as a powerful emotion. When gold miners in California heard the tune "Home, Sweet Home," they sobbed. When Civil War soldiers became homesick, army doctors sent them home, lest they die. Such images don't fit with our national mythology, which celebrates the restless individualism of colonists, explorers, pioneers, soldiers, and immigrants who supposedly left home and never looked back.

Using letters, diaries, memoirs, medical records, and psychological studies, this wide-ranging book uncovers the profound pain felt by Americans on the move from the country's founding until the present day. Susan Matt shows how colonists in Jamestown longed for and often returned to England, African Americans during the Great Migration yearned for their Southern homes, and immigrants nursed memories of Sicily and Guadalajara and, even after years in America, frequently traveled home. These iconic representatives of the undaunted, forward-looking American spirit were often homesick, hesitant, and reluctant voyagers. National ideology and modern psychology obscure this truth, portraying movement as easy, but in fact Americans had to learn how to leave home, learn to be individualists. Even today, in a global society that prizes movement and that condemns homesickness as a childish emotion, universities counsel young adults and their families on how to manage the transition away from home, suburbanites pine for their old neighborhoods, and companies take seriously the emotional toll borne by relocated executives and road warriors. In the age of helicopter parents and boomerang kids, and the new social networks that sustain connections across the miles, Americans continue to assert the significance of home ties.

By highlighting how Americans reacted to moving farther and farther from their roots, Homesickness: An American History revises long-held assumptions about home, mobility, and our national identity.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA (29 Sep 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195371852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195371857
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.7 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,502,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"[An] indispensable new book, which belongs on the shelf of important works of American revisionism....Matt shows that we are reluctant immigrants, hesitant pioneers, unenthusiastic warriors, and ambivalent modernizers who really would have rather skipped all the unpleasantness and stayed home." - Peter Duffy, The New Republic"What Matt's new reading of American history reveals is a culture crucially shaped by homesickness and nostalgia, a people at once deeply sentimentally tied to particular places and people, and simultaneously driven away from these beloved places by ambition, honor, duty, a desire to improve the fortunes of the family-or by war, drought, famine, land reclamation, or urban renewal...Her work is important not only because it is meticulously researched and skillfully written, but because it integrates aspects of the human condition that are intimately intertwined and too often separated: the economic and the emotional."-Emily Wilkinson, The Weekly Standard "Brilliantly conceived and beautifully executed, Homesickness: An American History is original, refreshingly broad, and persuasive. With deep archival research and an eye for the telling detail, Susan Matt tells a powerful, enduring story of an important but often overlooked emotion in US history. Any proper understanding of the American national character is incomplete without this book."-Mark M. Smith, author of Camille, 1969: Histories of a Hurricane"This lively and sweeping book gives a concrete history to what seems like a universal emotion, by simultaneously jogging the reader's own memories while situating them in the broad context of U.S. history from the Pilgrims' Landing to the Frequent Flyer. Filling her book with vivid anecdotes of real people-from aspiring immigrants to runaway slaves to our troops in Iraq-Susan J. Matt finds that homesickness is the very heart of the American Dream. Writing at the cutting edge of deeply researched cultural history a

About the Author

Susan J. Matt is Presidential Distinguished Professor of History at Weber State University, in Ogden, Utah. She is the author of Keeping Up with the Joneses: Envy in American Consumer Society, 1890-1930.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
By london
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a book about "a nation of immigrants" and what they really felt about all they left behind. Homesickness for places - and for times that are gone. The world is changing so fast now - perhaps we're all a little homesick even if we haven't budged an inch. It's nice to connect with those who came before us - and who felt the same things.

The experiences Susan Matt uncovers in this book are universal - Political and economic changes in the past thirty years have changed patterns of geographic movement for millions of Europeans - small Welsh communities are now half Polish - It's a multicultural world.

Don't let the title mislead you.. The subject is "Homesickness: An American History" but the story is bigger than that. That it feels so much like everybody's story is a tribute to the writer and her sensitive research.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Things I should have guessed but never knew! 11 Oct 2011
By Laine - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This heavily researched and footnoted book is a really interesting eye opening read. Anyone who is interested in genealogy, history, or the history of emotional/mental/physical illnesses will find a new perspective here. Nostalgia and homesickness, words coined in the colonial period, were once considered real and possibly fatal illnesses. From the Puritans through the slave trade, Trail of Tears and Mexican immigration, Susan Matt traces a real disease worthy of discharge from the Civil War to our modern feeling that children need to get over it and grow up. If you were sent to summer camp to help you do just that and were homesick even for a day, you will identify with all the people in the book.
5.0 out of 5 stars History of Emotions 24 Jun 2014
By Ellis 77 - Published on
I enjoyed the glimpse into the history of movement and nostalgia. The idea of the huddled masses moving to the states and never looking back has been publicized for generations, even though, there is a deeper history of people missing their homeland or neighborhood. This book is good for anyone who has moved to a new city, community, or country and needs the reassurance that others have been in the same situation and survived.
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 29 Aug 2014
By Jamie - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Very interesting and insightful.
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