In a felicitous synthesis of history, sociology, psychology, and anthropology, Tuttle (History and American Studies/Univ. of Kansas) represents in rich detail the intersection between public events and the way young children perceived them during WW II. Identifying differences of class, race, religion, age, gender, and geographical and ethnic background, Tuttle describes the psychic landscape (characterized by the pervasiveness of death and the trivialization of life), the fears (of air raids, blackouts, separations, relocations, gas chambers, and the atom bomb), and the challenges (collecting tin, buying war bonds and stamps in school, learning patriotic songs, sacrificing sugar and bubble gum, and planting ``victory'' gardens) that shaped a generation of children now entering its 50s. The concept of childhood itself, Tuttle contends, changed or was simply lost during WW II—a war characterized by working mothers, distant and endangered fathers, and disrupted communities as 30 million Americans moved to service the war industries. Popular culture (radio, movies, comics) contributed to bigotry, conformity, and intolerance—especially of Italians, Germans, Jews, and Japanese (112,000 American-Japanese were interred in domestic concentration camps, their possessions confiscated). Victory brought more disruptions as physically and psychologically wounded men returned to a newly configured society in which their authority was displaced by women, as well as by a government that had begun to intervene in the family by providing welfare services. Meanwhile, children's physical health took priority over their mental health with a plague of polio that in its secretive and invasive nature, Tuttle says, resembled the war just fought. And just as autocratic systems of government were defeated abroad, so were rigid systems of child-rearing at home replaced by Dr. Spock's liberalism. Artful and absorbing.
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