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American Blue Blood: The Challenge of Coming of Age in Upper-Class America Paperback – 9 May 2004

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (9 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0595316115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595316113
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 5,919,242 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

William C. Codington attended boarding school and college in the East. He spends his summers with his wife and children on a lake in the North Woods, where he reads history, writes, and watches the seasons.

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Format: Paperback
This novel helps us understand why upper class WASP culture (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) lost its exalted place in American society in the decades that ended the 20th Century.
The families portrayed in this novel are inheritors of the WASP culture that founded the American republic and in later generations founded and populated our exclusive suburban neighborhoods, such as the Philadelphia Main Line where this story largely takes place. Members of this culture created and sent their sons and daughters to exclusive boarding schools (Exeter, Andover, Lawrenceville, etc.)and the Ivy League Colleges (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, etc.). They were largely Episcopalian, their telephone book was the Social Register, and they hung out at clubs where tennis was played on grass and where blacks, Jews, and "ethnics" were not allowed.
In the later half of the 20th century the upper class WASP community was marginalized as standardized test scores, not family connections, determined who got accepted at elite schools and colleges. Meanwhile, technology was revolutionizing business and regional family companies all but disappeared. In short, as America moved toward "meritocracy," Old Money WASPs had a hard time competing. Furthermore, the generation of WASPs that came of age in the '60s and '70s had difficulty reconciling the elitism of their own culture with the democratic ideals for which their country was supposed to stand.
American Blue Blood deals with these themes through a Philadelphia Main Line family, the members of whom struggle to understand who they are supposed to be in the late 20th Century. The plot is primarily a coming-of-age story, and the characters are well drawn and believable.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why the Old Money WASP Has Been Marginalized 2 Jun. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel helps us understand why upper class WASP culture (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) lost its exalted place in American society in the decades that ended the 20th Century.

The families portrayed in this novel are inheritors of the WASP culture that founded our country and in later generations founded and populated our exclusive suburban neighborhoods, such as the Philadelphia Main Line where this story largely takes place. Members of this culture created and sent their sons and daughters to exclusive boarding schools and the Ivy League Colleges. They were largely Episcopalian, their telephone book was the Social Register, and they hung out at clubs where tennis was played on grass and where blacks, Jews, and "ethnics" were not allowed.

In the later half of the 20th century the upper class WASP community was marginalized as standardized test scores, not family connections, determined who got accepted at elite schools and colleges. Meanwhile, technology was revolutionizing business and regional family companies all but disappeared. In short, as America moved toward "meritocracy," Old Money WASPs had a hard time competing. Furthermore, the generation of WASPs that came of age in the '60s and '70s had difficulty reconciling the elitism of their own culture with the democratic ideals for which their country was supposed to stand.

American Blue Blood deals with these themes through a Philadelphia Main Line family, the members of which struggle to understand who they are supposed to be in the late 20th Century. The plot is primarily a coming-of-age story, and the characters are well drawn and believable.

This novel is worth a read for anyone interested in understanding what WASP culture once was, what it was up against, and what happened to it. This book is for that person who wants to learn all of the above, but who wants to do it by reading fiction as opposed to the works of University of Pennsylvania sociologist E. Digby Baltzell (The Protestant Establishment, Philadelphia Gentlemen, Puritan Boston Quaker Philadelphia), Robert C. Christopher (Crashing the Gates), Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr. (Old Money), Jerome C Karabel (The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton), etc., etc. All are great books and are also worth reading.
4.0 out of 5 stars Great book and history lessons 22 Sept. 2010
By dc0511 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed this book and the insight it gave to the non-existent/existent aristocracy that the United States have. It puts the American Dream into perspective and how attainable it is in the US for everyone - blue bloods and immigrants alike. Although there are families that have been here since the landing of the Mayflower and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, others have come and made a life/name for themselves and achieved this American Dream; they have risen above the previous generations because this aristocracy is not allowed to challenge hard work and dilligence. Family names from various ethnicities and countries have been able to attain the same success that the "Blue Bloods" have attained.

This book was a really interesting read as it follows Tom's struggle to adjust from boarding school to college to real life without a trust fund or connections that were available a generation before him. The Good Ol' Boys network does not work out for him like it does for others in his "class". He is thrown into the employment hunt with everyone else and must make his own connections and land a job all the while enduring sneers and jabs from his peers. He comes to understand the past so much better because he is understanding his present.

I love how we can learn from history the lessons that we need to understand today. How the past shapes our present and how today will shape tomorrow. Understanding where we came from, what we're doing now and what we're going to do tomorrow is what the study of history is all about.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accurate portrayal of an America not accurately portrayed 4 Nov. 2008
By SouthCNorthNY - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While most movies and books fetishize or demonize WASP culture, this book is written by an actual member of a once important family. While many works have been made about the WASP in the past (duh- they founded the country), recent portrayals have become caricatures. Besides being able to see a society that is usually out of sight, this book is valuable because it really shows that the American dream of upward mobility cannot last forever. While the author's family was once well respected and wealthy, he is forced to work with people that ridicule his lineage. Some will say that old money is just getting its comeuppance, but it goes to show that what goes up must come down and that includes every family at some point (the book goes to point out that the United States does not have an aristocracy, so no family is secure forever in their social standing.) Much can also be read into the American identity and what it means when the group that was the foundation for that identity is marginalized or disappears.

By no means a masterpiece, but well written and engaging. This included with its unique content warrants 5 stars.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well written portrait of upper class social change 26 Jun. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This novel's premise is: the culture of wealthy, aristocratic WASP families that was once center stage in America is all but gone. This novel is a portrait of one such family of the Philadelphia Main Line that came apart in the social upheavals of the Sixties and Seventies, and whose members had difficulty competing as America subsequently moved toward a more complete meritocracy. The main character is a sympathetic hero who is well developed and easy to understand, even for those of us who didn't grow up with the Social Register and who went to college on scholarship. The writing is excellent, the narrative voice and writing style convey a sense of propriety, a natural fit for the subject matter of this novel.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rise and Fall of Old Money in America 10 Sept. 2011
By Pat Holling - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
American Blue Blood is a sharp and critical take on the fading upper class in America. What to do when old family connections no longer suffice to ease one into an elevated career? What happens when the money runs out and the leisure class needs to get its hands dirty? And how does one adapt to these circumstances while dealing with the mixed envy and resentment of those with less fortunate -- or at least less moneyed -- backgrounds? These questions and more are addressed by the story of Tom Lightfoot who seeks to navigate through this period of social transition.

Always well written (with a tone befitting the subject), rich in details and ambiance, American Blue Blood is a novel of ideas that also has a story to tell. Often one wishes Tom would take the bull by the horns; however, Tom's inability to push forward is also a sign of his plight, socially betwixt and between. All in all, a worthwhile read for those interested in the trajectory of social classes in America.
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