Friday, August 24, 2018

Crash: The great depression and the fall and rise of America by Marc Favreau

This comprehensive look at the history of the Great Depression is a great way to introduce young readers to this period in US history.

A prologue briefly reviews the catastrophic effects of the Great Depression and then the story plunges into the state of the US in 1931, when the Great Depression struck. The book continues through the causes, analyzing Hoover's policies, the worsening economic and political situation, and the advent of FDR. Chapters are devoted to the powerful influence of Eleanor Roosevelt and the changes in policy organized by ground-breaking Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins. The book seems to be rising to an optimistic high, with the successful policies of the New Deal and increasing confidence and economic stability.

But the downside is quickly shown in the onset of the environmental catastrophe of the dust storms, and the even more tragic effect of the Great Depression on the already oppressed African-American and Hispanic populations. Favreau speaks bluntly but sensitively about lynching and the deportation of Mexican workers, many of whom were American citizens. The rise of prejudice and anti-immigrant prejudice continues into the opening salvos of the United State's involvement in World War II and the end of the Great Depression.

Favreau reflects on the effects of the Great Depression and the delayed, but not forgotten, efforts by African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, and women to achieve the safety and prosperity sought for by all Americans. The book is full of many firsthand accounts, personal recollections, and original documents. Back matter includes source notes, bibliography, timeline, index, and primary sources.

This is Favreau's first book for young readers and he does an excellent job of explaining a complex time period in history. Many of the darker aspects, riots, oppression, lynching, and prejudice are included to give a full picture, but in a way that is appropriate for young readers. There are a couple omissions; although Favreau gives a very balanced view of Hoover's administration, Roosevelt's seems to be presented through rose-colored glasses, with no mentions of any controversy beyond some acknowledgements of his lack of support for equality for minorities and women. The section on the dustbowl is also very brief, making it sound like the drought was the sole cause of the disaster, rather than years of damaging farming practices.

Verdict: A readable, compelling, and well-written overview; an excellent choice to introduce this time period to young readers and serve as a starting point for further research. Highly recommended.

ISBN: 9780316545860; Published April 2018 by Little, Brown; Purchased for the library

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