“Extraordinarily good . . . An important contribution to studies of the Los Angeles basin, the book ought to have wider appeal among scholars of racial formation, suburbanization, and the development of the American West.”
—Don Mitchell, author of The Lie of the Land: Migrant Workers and the California Landscape
“Deftly blending social history and cultural critique, Barraclough’s fine book forces us to think in new ways about the relationships between rural and urban areas, between the suburb and the city, and between the past and the present.”
"Barraclough's chief insight is discerning how those linking suburbia to the mythic west have managed purposefully to construct racial identities and maintain white privilege in the San Fernando Valley (and elsewhere in the west). The book is a richly detailed, lucidly written, and astute history of the San Fernando Valley. It belongs alongside other important histories of the region by Kevin Starr, Robert Fogelson, William Fulton, Becky M. Nicolaides, and too few others."
—Ronald A. Davidson, Journal of Historical Geography
"To [the] list of must-reads, Angelenos especially should add Laura Barraclough's Making the San Fernando Valley. . . .She offers some sharp insights into the historical pressures and contemporary dilemmas confronting a once-rural landscape. . . .spot on."
—Char Miller, Southern California Quarterly
In the first book-length scholarly study of the San Fernando Valley—home to one-third of the population of Los Angeles—Laura R. Barraclough combines ambitious historical sweep with an on-the-ground investigation of contemporary life in this iconic western suburb. She is particularly intrigued by the Valley’s many rural elements, such as dirt roads, tack-and-feed stores, horse-keeping districts, citrus groves, and movie ranches. Far from natural or undeveloped spaces, these rural characteristics are, she shows, the result of deliberate urban planning decisions that have shaped the Valley over the course of more than a hundred years.
The Valley’s entwined history of urban development and rural preservation has real ramifications today for patterns of racial and class inequality and especially for the evolving meaning of whiteness. Immersing herself in meetings of homeowners’ associations, equestrian organizations, and redistricting committees, Barraclough uncovers the racial biases embedded in rhetoric about “open space” and “western heritage.” The Valley’s urban cowboys enjoy exclusive, semirural landscapes alongside the opportunities afforded by one of the world’s largest cities. Despite this enviable position, they have at their disposal powerful articulations of both white victimization and, with little contradiction, color-blind politics.
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