In this richly reported book, he follows five families that sought comfort and promise in America’s suburbs over these past couple of decades, outside Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Los Angeles, and Pittsburgh. In each of these communities, Herold zeroes in on the schools, in large part because education captures the essence of what attracted these families: the prospect of something better for their kids ... This is a sprawling book, which is its virtue and the source of its occasional misfires. Five families are a lot to keep track of. I found myself at times having to flip back in the book to remember the contours of each family and their respective suburb. I wasn’t convinced that Herold needed all these people to make his point. So many of their stories echoed one another, and at times I simply wanted to hear more about the architects of America’s dream ... Despite its imperfections, though, Disillusioned is an astonishingly important work. We know what’s happened and happening in our cities. Finally, here’s someone to take us to the places that early on served as an escape valve, mostly for white families fleeing the changing demographics of urban America, the places where many Americans imagined a kind of social and economic utopia.
...an important, cleareyed account of suburban boom and bust, and the challenges facing the country today ... The suburbs were 'a ticking time bomb,' the explosion set to go off after only a few generations. Many of them, built on white exclusivity, avoided town planning as well as diversifying their economies, fearing opening themselves to racial integration ... The multiple rotating narratives can feel disorienting, and the results are uneven. But each suburb’s history is engrossing, and Herold, a journalist who has frequently reported on public education, delivers an up-close, intimate account of life there that resounds with broader meaning. The families also reflect the expanding range of people who now call American suburbs home ... Herold focuses on each family’s attempts to navigate schools for their children. It’s a missed opportunity to explore other social institutions, and the different ways suburbs function or fail to. Yet the emphasis on schools is revealing.
...presents a blistering indictment of how American suburbs were built on racism and unsustainable development 'that functioned like a Ponzi scheme' ... Disillusioned excels in documenting the effects racial exclusion and intimidation had on suburban growth, and Herold offers eye-opening details like the fact that Compton, Calif., was once home to George Herbert Walker Bush and his young children. For readers like me, who previously only thought of Compton as a burning epicenter of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Herold reminds us that places don't start out in disrepair. They're shaped by forces that cause decay ... As Herold jumps between cities and decades, it can be hard to keep track of the exact rulings in different cases regarding desegregation. But the patterns are clear and continuing, cementing the idea that equal rights and opportunity exist only in theory in this country, not in practice.