Second Suburb: Levittown, Pennsylvania. Edited by Dianne Harris


The word "Levittown" conjures up distinctively strong associations in the minds of scholars and the general public. The image that often emerges first is that of modest, single-family suburban houses clustered together by the thousands on an expanse of flat former farmland, followed by some combination of different judgments: a successful experiment in making home ownership broadly affordable; a cultural wasteland of conformity and consumption; a child-filled, family-friendly community; a site and symbol of racial exclusion and hostility. One of the important achievements of Second Suburb is that such common, partially conflicting assumptions are at once confirmed and complicated. Composed of a relatively brief set of first-person memories of living in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and of seven scholarly essays focusing on such topics as architecture, planning, racial politics, and the environment, this skillfully edited collection is full of creative tension with its exploration of contrasts.