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The American Resting Place: Four Hundred Years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burial Grounds

Marilyn Yalom, Author, Reid S. Yalom, Photographer
Marilyn Yalom, Author, Reid S. Yalom, Photographer , photos by Reid S. Yalom. Houghton Mifflin $30 (336p) ISBN 978-0-618-62427-0
Reviewed on: 03/31/2008
Release date: 05/01/2008

To rescue the dead from oblivion, examine America’s ethnic diversity and highlight shifts in cemetery mores over time, cultural historian Yalom (A History of the Breast ) and her photographer son (Colonial Noir ) traveled to more than 250 American cemeteries across the country. From the ancient Native American Etowah mounds in northern Georgia (abandoned around 1550, when the tribes were presumably destroyed by European diseases) to Rhode Island’s Touro Jewish Cemetery, established in 1677 (it inspired a moving poem by Longfellow), Yalom examines the ways gender, class and culture affected how people were buried. New Orleans’s cemeteries, for instance, show discrepancies between white and black residents: whites were buried in aboveground tombs, blacks in soggy earth that sometimes forced remains back up to the surface. Chicago’s Waldheim holds Gypsies and anarchist Emma Goldman, while the moneyed aristocrats Marshall Field and Cyrus McCormick ended up in Graceland Cemetery. While rich, interesting nuggets abound, the mount of time and territory covered results in some shallow analysis. 80 b&w photos. (May 15)