The American Resting Place

The American Resting Place

Book - 2008
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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.
Published: Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., 2008.
ISBN: 9780618624270
Branch Call Number: 929.5097 YAL
Characteristics: xv, 336 p., [64] of plates :,ill. ;,24 cm.


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May 22, 2015

As a genealogist, I love cemeteries, so I picked this book up almost automatically. It begins with a section of atmospheric black and white photographs of cemeteries all over the country, beginning with a Native American burial mound in the South. After many trips to cemeteries all around the country, Yalom focuses on a handful that illustrate the evolution of burial practices over 400 years in America. If the subject interests you at all, you'll be fascinated at this look from Boston's early Puritan cemeteries, with skulls on the stones, to its "rural" Auburn park-like cemetery, full of statuary and beautiful flowers. She hunts for African American burials in the South, finds above-ground tombs in New Orleans, and mission cemeteries in California, and native traditions still active in Hawaiian cemeteries. Military cemeteries honor men and women who served their country, from France to Arlington to Hawaii. She tries to draw conclusions from her travels to cemeteries for our views of death; I didn't think they followed very well from what she'd reported on, so knocked off a star for that. But the reporting on the cemeteries, to say nothing of the pictures, is worth a read.


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