The American Home Front 1941-1942 - Why didn't I read this sooner?

The American Home Front: 1941-1942 - Alistair Cooke

While learning the battles and important dates of a war are important, I have long been drawn to the effects war has on the 'home front.' While the young men went off to fight, how did the families left behind deal with the day to day? How did events far away (often but not always) change the lives of the people growing the food, making the military necessities, and those waiting for loved ones to come home? Perhaps my interest comes from the growing up in East Tennessee, where the home front and the battlefield often were one in the same. And I have long been interested and begun to study the United Kingdom's home front during WW I and II.

 

However, what i know about the American Home Front in WW II largely comes from the American Girl Molly Books. They are packed with a great deal of information but rather generalized. So I originally picked up this book to add to my knowledge. I had no knowledge of Alister Cooke or his trip across an America gearing up for war, but I can't say the surprise was a bad one.

 

Alister Cooke has a way with words. I had planned to plow through this book, but instead found myself traveling leisurely along the road alongside him. His descriptions are sublime; I know many of the places he went through in the South and it was as if I were driving by as i read - I could see them so clearly. Event he areas of the country I've yet to see (which are many) came alive.

 

The text is not written as a travelogue, nor is it akin to a chat between friends; rather you are in the car with the author as he drives, flies, and goes by boat to places you know. Yet, the text is also a time capsule. Cooke captures different areas of America with her various people (not all but boy does he give it the college try) in the midst of a transition; from a neutral nations to finally joining in a world war. Everyone has an opinion and he gives them a chance to have their say: farmers from Kentucky to Oregon, factory workers traveling to all corners of the nation to fill military quotas, soldiers both new and old - even RAF pilots training, and even Americans locked up in camps for 'security reasons.' As a BBC correspondent who has a radio show describing the US to his listeners (and as a former British now US citizen himself), Cooke has an interesting perspective to share. He works to both uphold and explain yet also disabuse one of the cliche images of America. He uses language and descriptions others will recognize and yet he tries to look beyond the facade. I found myself seeing people and areas I'd long known in a new light. I don't know that I entirely agree with all his conclusions...but I don't entirely disagree either. This is a book I'll chew on for awhile.

 

I can't thank The Fish Place enough for letting me group read with them. I'm sad to say this has long sat unread on my self, but it goes back a fondly remembered read and a definite re-read for the future. Now I'm off to binge listen to his radio show available on iTunes podcasts. I don't know if he writes as he talks...but I can't wait to find out.

 

Happy Readings, y'all!