... drive[s] home Americans’ broad familiarity with the ethos of comfort-in-conformity and liberty-in-land-ownership that has made mass-produced suburbs so attractive from their inception ... Using pop culture as a lens through which to view the suburbs is a revealing tactic ... To Diamond’s credit, The Sprawl includes the stories of African American rappers moving into majority-white neighborhoods in the North Side of Chicago and techno music’s origins in Detroit, among others. These illustrate not only the hardships faced by these individuals at the hands of their neighbors, but the contributions they made to American pop culture alongside them...Additionally, underlying the book’s journey through various Midwestern, Floridian, and Northeastern suburbs is the author’s personal experiences of life in those places. Coupled with the narrative’s focus on films and music, this geographical diversity makes a book about suburbia, and the 'most boring places' in America, a far more interesting read ... As a person of color who grew up in the suburbs, there’s much in Diamond’s writing that I can relate to. However, there is much about the suburbs today that is fundamentally at odds with the perceptions pop culture perpetuates ... We need more books by authors of color about the intent, lived experiences, and cultural products of suburban America ... for the average reader who wants an introduction to the suburbs, how they came to be, and why they have such a deep physical and psychological hold on America, I would happily recommend The Sprawl. With that said, the black and brown fists raised up across housing developments and small towns today reflect a wealth of cultural vitality that is significantly underexplored in books such as Diamond’s ... One looks at those fists today and can’t help but wonder: Where are the books written by those same hands? They do exist, though they often receive far less attention and critical acclaim than they deserve. However, just as often, future authors, artists, filmmakers, and cultural icons are never given a chance at a platform in the first place as their experiences are deemed 'not representative enough.' Yet it seems, now more than ever thanks to anti-racism reading lists, that we are still searching for the authors who grew up in Marty McFly’s America but witnessed a vastly different side of it.
... fascinating ... Diamond presents readers with a new way of viewing this ubiquitous environment ... Diamond is clear that no matter the intentions of early suburban founders, too often, minority groups were deliberately kept out. Looking at the culture of the suburbs from the 1980s to the present, Diamond shows how much of our country’s worst violence takes place in suburban areas (school shootings, police brutality), and how the suburbs are seen as stifling to creativity despite the array of music, film, literature, and art that has been produced by suburbanites. Diamond points out that by pigeonholing the suburbs as devoid of energy, Americans could be missing out on the vast potential of the people who live there. As to whether or not suburban areas will have to evolve in order to attract younger generations in droves, there is some evidence that suburban nostalgia is comforting enough to soothe a high-strung, internet-raised population. A humble and curious must-read.
Diamond dives deep into a cultural analysis rich with literary, musical, and Hollywood references and examines the historical, social context of suburban sprawl, from post-war Levittowns to the contemporary decline of shopping malls. The Sprawl offers an insightful examination of the type of places the majority of Americans call home ... Diamond is more focused on situating suburbs in our culture than the history of urban planning, but he does jump headfirst into one essential historical element — racism ... In some moments, Diamond slides towards film criticism rather than focusing on suburban experience, but he always brings it back to the sprawl ... The Sprawl is a uniquely American look at the suburban phenomenon. And Diamond is right. If the American suburb fails, so fails the American way of life ... The Sprawl leads us on a journey through the promise of suburbia while expertly peeling back the curtain.