03_review

This Is Who We Were. New York: Grey House Publishing. 14 vol.

This Is Who We Were is a fourteen-volume series documenting what life was like throughout American history. The first volume, This Is Who We Were: A Companion to the 1940 Census was published in 2012, and covers life in the 1930s, leading up to the 1940 Census. The most recent volume, This Is Who We Were: In the 2010s, was published in 2020. Each volume follows a similar outline: personal profiles; historical snapshots; economy of the time; “All Around Us—What We Saw, Wrote, Read & Listened To”; and Census summary and comparison data. After the first volume, which was essentially “in the 1930s,” the series takes on primarily a decade-by-decade format, with subsequent volumes covering 1880-1889, the 1910s, 1920s, 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s. The two remaining volumes broke from the single decade format, with one covering the 1900s and the other Colonial America (1492–1775).

This series is a fun and easy to understand way to explore history and life in America. The profiles and historical snapshot sections are both composed of bullet points, which lends to browsing. One small complaint would be that the historical snapshot section is typically broken down into “early,” “mid,” and “late” decade, however an exact date or even year is not given. (See In the 1990s, page 171: Early 1990s, “Civil rights advocate Ruth Bader Ginsburg was named to the U.S. Supreme Court.”) A particularly fun section is “Economy of the Times,” where readers can learn that in 1932, a lawn mower cost $5.49 or a box of 200 marshmallows cost $0.65 (This Is Who We Were: A Companion to the 1940 Census, p. 249). “All Around Us” aims to transport readers back in time and put them in the heads of previous generations by reprinting important media items from the time.

A major strength of this series is the range of source material. The books contain a multitude of Census data and statistics; however, it is presented alongside fun facts and easily understandable descriptions of daily life. Entertaining and informative, this series is an excellent resource for exploring life in America.—Megan Vladoiu (mvladoiu@iu.edu), Indiana University

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