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American Resting Place, The: Four Hundred Years Of History Through Our Cemeteries And Burial Grounds

by Marilyn Yalom
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Product Details

  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publishing date: 15/05/2008
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 9780618624270
  • ISBN: 0618624279

Synopsis

A sweeping history of America as seen through its gravestones, graveyards, and burial practices, stunningly illustrated with eighty black-and-white photographs

Cemeteries and burial grounds, as illuminated by an acclaimed cultural historian, are unique windows onto our religious, ethnic, and deeply human history as Americans.
The dedicated mother-son team of Marilyn and Reid Yalom visited hundreds of cemeteries to create The American Resting Place, following a coast-to-coast trajectory that mirrors the vast historical pattern of American migration.
Yalom’s incisive, often poignant exploration of gravestone inscriptions reveal changing ideas about death and personal identity, and demonstrate how class and gender play out in stone. Rich particulars include the story of one seventeenth-century Bostonian who amassed a thousand pairs of gloves in his funeral-going lifetime, the unique burial rites and funerary symbols found in today’s Native American cultures, and a ?lost” Czech community brought uncannily to life in Chicago’s Bohemian National Columbarium.

From fascinating past to startling future--DVDs embedded in tombstones, "green" burials, and ?the new aesthetic of death”--The American Resting Place is the definitive history of the American cemetery.

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  • First-rate cultural history
    From Amazon

    Non-genealogists are apt not to understand why some of us come back from a vacation, and practically the only pictures in the camera are of tombs and grave markers. Cemeteries are fascinating places to those who research the history of their families. But they're also an intimate ingredient in American cultural history. As families of varying ethnic origins migrated west (or north), they took their burial traditions with them, which means there's not much that a colonial burying ground in Connecticut, a Hispanic cemetery in San Antonio, and a rural church graveyard in Missouri have in common -- at least on the surface. Yalom, though, a noted cultural historian, finds the commonalities in this coast-to-coast tour. The author's method is anecdotal, with chapters on Boston's ancient burial places, New York city's struggles to find room for all its dead, the "Southern way of death," Texas, St. Louis, Chicago, California, and Hawaii, with additional chapters on military cemeteries and changing fashions in interment. Of special interest to me, there's an entire chapter on New Orleans, too, "where it's better to be buried above ground." Yalom includes detailed coverage of Katrina's depredations on the city's cemeteries, since the hurricane arrived during the very week she had planned to visit. Rather than a unified plan of development, the reader will experience instead a gradually cumulative effect, an overlayering of cultures and religious sensibilities which highlights how much history America's cemeteries really contain. A few famous graves are mentioned -- King Kamehameha, Elder William Brewster, Dred Scott -- but far more space is given to ordinary people who typify a larger group, and to gravesites where not even the names of the inhabitants are known. This makes it an excellent book for browsing, and there is also a section of eighty striking black-and-white photos which you will find yourself turning back to over and over again.

  • Resting with the Photographs
    From Amazon

    There are several reviews here about the Yaloms' (mother and son) book on American cemeteries. Since the reviews focus principally on the text, I wanted to take a moment to discuss the moving black and white photographs by Reid Yalom, a photographer from San Francisco. First of all, it was a wise decision to place the photographs in a distinct portfolio in the front of the book. In this way, they avoid becoming only dispersed illustrations for Marilyn's well-written text. The photographs are historical documents, of course, but they are so much more. Each image stands regally on its own, framed by a skillful and sensitive fine art photographer. Take a moment to meander through the portfolio of images-- letting go of the details about where and when, much as you would stroll through these cemeteries themselves on a quiet Sunday afternoon. After all, the cemetery AND the photograph are places to meander, to explore, to meditate and to REST. Resting your eyes and thoughts on one of Reid's poetic images gives the viewer an opportunity to reflect. There is as much life in these images of graves and cold stones as there is death. Reid has managed to inject a feeling for a live human presence to spite the fact that there is only one image with a live human figure, Plate 46. In perusing these photographs, we feel a warm human spirit circling around, not some eerie ghost of the past, but a strong immediate presence of those who are our loved ones. Through Reid's choice of sparkling light on stone (Plate 42 for example), through the artful presentation of photographs and drawings of those buried on the graves (Plate 44 as example), and through the dramatic images of statuary (the last Plate 64 especially), we feel the strong continuation of the souls who are resting here. In this final photograph of statuary, Kate Tracy and her mother, their arms wrapped around each other are offering comfort to those of us alive who are walking there and facing the inevitability of our own mortality. Plate 52, Spirit trail, is my favorite image. At first it seems so lonely but then, as I rest my eye on the path, I feel a presence--surprisingly, that of myself walking the stony road accompanied by my own spirit into the rest of my life. Wander through these photographs. You will not regret it. They are thoughtfully composed with an eye for the way nature, stone, and human spirit can combine--especially when brought together by an artist like Reid Yalom.

  • Terrible.
    From Amazon

    From the title, I expected this book to be an excellent overview of American cemeteries and burial practices. I was disappointed. Not only are there factual inaccuracies but the author has a number of the dates wrong. Also, from the extremely short shrift given some of the cemeteries I wonder if the author spent more than 15 minutes in any of them, if she even bothered to visit them at all. This book is an embarrassment. Save your money.

  • The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds
    From Amazon

    The American Resting Place: 400 Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds. by Marilyn Yalom and Reid S. Yalom. 2008. 352 pages. My wife found this book at a local library while browsing the shelves. I picked it up off of her "to read" book pile. I had just recently re-watched a one hour program on PBS about Cemeteries and so my interest had been piqued. This book begins with an extensive set of black and white photographs of various burying grounds and objects with in them. The photography is well done and the black and white format with its shades of gray and shadows was a much better stylistic choice then color. Then begins the text. The text is well written, well researched, and moves along at a good reading pace conveying main ideas and themes intermingled with tidbits and interesting facts related to local burials and traditions. The book takes a journey chronological, and geographically. In a sense it follows the spread of American Civilization across the mountains, the prairies, and over the oceans to Hawaii. The text does a good job of laying out a basic framework of traditions with localized religious, cultural, and geographical considerations played out on that general framing. The only real drawback to this approach is that occasionally the author will interject more than a personal reaction. The author will on occasion interject a personal observation or commentary. These commentaries however do not really affect the readability, tone, or scope of the text. They are a paragraph every third chapter or so at most. If anything they prick one's own conscience and stimulate personal reflection. The research which went into creating the background frame is admirable and included in the bibliography. Much of the local flavorings are enhanced by the author's travels to these sites and interviews with local personalities. The book is a very good basic reference guide to the breadth of American funerary and burial traditions. It does not purport to be the subject matter expert on say the burial mounds and grave goods of the Blackducks or Dutch Colonial settlers outside of New York. Rather it provides an informed readable survey with enough depth to halt the readers and spark interest in further investigation. The book is not a theology text but more of a travelogue. My only real complaint is that the photos were separated from the text by putting them all together in the beginning. I feel that they would have benefited the text and the educational capabilities of the book by ending the need to flip and search. Of course that would have eliminated the artistic focus of the photos and perhaps changed their personality.

  • the American Restin Place
    From Amazon

    Interesting book. My spouse is to read it next and she has a keen interest in cemeteries old and new.

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