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Levittown: Two Extraordinary Families, One Ruthless Tycoon, and the Fight for the American Dream

3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  147 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews

The dark side of the American dream: the true story of the first African-American family to move into the iconic suburb, Levittown, PA .

In the decade after World War II , one entrepreneurial family helped thousands of people buy into the American dream of owning a home. T he Levitts—William, Alfred, and their father, Abe—pooled their talents to create storybook towns wi
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 3rd 2009 by Walker & Company
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Jul 23, 2009 Glenn rated it really liked it
I'm surprised I did not know of this story. Two stories, really. On the one hand is the story of the Levitts, who applied the principles of mass production and model communities to provide homes for over a hundred thousand people at a time when there was a need for such housing after World War II. Very interesting story of their creative and practical innovations in building, and the amassment and later the loss of tremendous wealth and renown. On the other hand it is a well-told story of the in ...more
Apr 27, 2009 Michelle rated it liked it
The actual story of the book--the integration of Levittown, PA in the 1950s--was interesting, but the middle of the book was longer than it needed to be. Parts of it were repetitive, and it could've used better editing overall. Sadly, I wasn't too surprised at the reaction of the original Levittowners, or the fact that today it's still 97% white there. Though it was disturbing to learn that there was an small KKK faction at the time as well as several cross-burning incidents.
Apr 24, 2010 Hillary rated it really liked it
I didn't know much of the history of Levittown, and how its heyday coincided with the civil rights movement. This book was pretty great. Minus a few points for typos, though. I hate that!
Oct 08, 2010 Jeanne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The explosion of suburban growth in the post-War II era was lead by the Levitts. The first Levittown in NY, was wildly successful. It filled a need for the returning vets so that they could start their families in a "safe" long as they were white. The builder, Levitt, required that his houses not be sold to blacks and the government backed him up on that. Shame.

Later, Levitt built another community called Levittown in PA. Pretty soon, a black family, a veteran's family, wanted t
Jul 09, 2010 Walter rated it really liked it
David Kushner's Levittown is a fascinating and important story of a now almost forgotten and yet important era and episode in America's 20th century history. It relays the story of the Levitts, the most influential builders/developers of the post-WWII era, and of the underside of one of their more unfortunate policies.

The story of the suburbanization on America is both interesting and important and the Levitts, and especially number one son Bill, were at the center of this society-changing pheno
marcus miller
Mar 31, 2010 marcus miller rated it really liked it
Great book that tells the story of the Levitt family, the growth of the American suburb, American racism, the Civil Rights movement, with a bit of 1950's McCarthyism thrown in for good measure.
This book tells an important part of the story of the 1950's, a decade described as the "decade of conformity." I think it is also seen as the golden age for those who espouse a return to traditional values (whatever those are?) This story exposes the often ugly side of the emphasis on conformity.
Nov 28, 2014 Ciarra rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-for-school
I read Levittown for an assignment at school and it was very informative; however, at times some of the factual information was irrelevant to the story (lol, I guess that's why it's nonfiction).

It included a good amount of details on rights, some on the Cold War/McCarthyism, the American Dream, suburban growth/white flight,and more. I enjoyed it; it was an enjoyable read and I learned a lot about the integration of suburban communities.

Tom Schulte
Nov 02, 2015 Tom Schulte rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, sociology
I knew so little about Levittown; there were many such towns, founder Bill Levitt was a racist assuring covenants no longer valid in the United States... This book is the story of a brave family that broke the Levittown color barrier, their supporters, and the enemies that fomented a race riot to unsuccessfully move them out.
Jun 14, 2010 Libby rated it liked it
The title suggests something broader than what this book is: the story of integrating the Pennsylvania Levittown in the mid-1950s. But Kushner throws in a lot of other stuff - the Levitt family story, personal histories, and more details about the initial, Long Island, NY Levittown - than is necessary or even useful. And he only briefly mentions more interesting aspects of the racial integration - like the involvement of clergy and various organizing committees, the role of homemakers in the soc ...more
Mar 11, 2013 Colleen rated it it was amazing
A wonderful re-telling of the way two families worked together to support each other through the painful experience of desegregating one of the earliest suburban developments in the United States. Good resource for understanding the many small fights that were hugely significant in the overall battle for civil rights. Helps illuminate the many obstacles, large and small, that made home ownership for African Americans such a struggle. An inspiring story of ordinary families, just trying to live t ...more
Marti Guthrie
Jan 16, 2010 Marti Guthrie rated it really liked it
This is a very good book about a slice of American History that has gone unnoticed for too long. This book is essentially the root of why the Suburbs are mostly made up of White Middle class families. A father and two sons decide to build cookie-cutter homes for veterans returning from WWII to honor them. With a few exceptions. You couldn't be black, jewish, or communist. Yet the creators of this "Levittown" were Jewish. It's a strange and disturbing tale told beautifully by David Kushner. Thoug ...more
May 06, 2013 E rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
This should be required reading for anyone interested in the dark side of suburbia, or Long Island history (although it mostly focuses on Levittown, PA). Well-researched yet reads in an interesting narrative style. I knew Long Island, and many other parts of the North, had a racist history, but I hadn't realized just how bad it was. I stand in awe of what the Myers family endured, propped up only by a handful of sympathetic neighbors, and their own quiet strength and belief in what is right. Ins ...more
Jul 04, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing
In the mid-1950s a black family tried to move to Levittown, Pennsylania, an all-white enclave that helped (along with two other Levittowns) create the prototype for post-War suburbia. This is a thrilling and appalling tale of a racial conflict but also has a lot to say about the rise and fall of the Levitts and their suburban idyll. For those of us who grew up hating suburbia, the book also explains much of the post-war phenomena of why our parents rushed to these greenfields.
Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
The Levitts (who were Jews), designed their suburban housing developments to be white and Anti-Semitic. So, when a family of Communist Jews sold a house to African-Americans, the company and its local police force stood back for two months in the summer of 1957 while the "perfect" neighborhood turned into a Confederate flag-waving, rock-throwing, cross-burning mob (with its own ice cream truck) until the state police belatedly intervened.
Apr 07, 2014 Riccol rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I stumbled on this book in the "$2.99 or Less" list on my Nook (Barnes & Noble). The more I read the more embarrassed I felt for not having known a thing about this part of American history. Should be required reading for any class on modern American history or civil rights as it does a wonderful job of tying together the entire "mood" of the times it takes place in, something you miss learning just the facts in a class.
Jun 09, 2009 Patty rated it really liked it
This was a very well-written, easy to read account of the civil rights struggles in this famous suburb. The author was able to really bring out the humanness of each of the people involved. It was fascinating to read about the civil rights struggle in a way that's not usually focused on- the struggle for blacks to buy decent housing in predominantly white neighborhoods. Very interesting.
Apr 28, 2013 John rated it really liked it
This is a well-written, interesting book about civil rights, specifically in housing after WWII. Though I certainly knew about the rise of Levittown as a source of affordable housing, I wasn't aware of the racist policies of the Levitts. The book shows the courage of several families as they fought to integrate Levitttown, Pennsylvania, a very uplifting tale.
May 26, 2010 Lisa rated it liked it
This book is a great history of racial barriers to fair housing in the US in the 20th century. However, I feel that 2/3 of the way into the book, I'd read the story. No need to continue. I got it. So, did that mean it did not keep my attention, or does it mean that it should have been edited? Not sure.
Aug 16, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
I really liked this. I knew about Levittown and the houses "all made of ticky-tacky" but had no idea Levitt had an official whites-only policy. This book told the fascinating story of how some very brave families forced integration in the Pa. Levittown.
Oct 22, 2011 Curt rated it liked it
Once you get beyond the author's sledgehammer good guy vs bad guy language, a fascinating story. When it comes to nonfiction with a moral backdrop, I think I've been spoiled by Egger's pitch-perfect approach in Zeitoun.
Brian Saul
May 05, 2009 Brian Saul rated it really liked it
Amazing account of small-minded people of the big city in post WWII America. Not a scholarly account, some repetition of facts, but a fascinating "must read" for all I'd say.
Oct 03, 2011 Jeffrey rated it it was ok
Shelves: kindle
If this were fiction, one would think it's a far stretch...interesting and a disturbing slice of history. I only gave it two star, because it wasn't particularly well written.
Author G D  Grace
Become friends with, David Kushner on GoodReads in August.... decided to promote his book just because he's a fellow writer. His writings look extremely interesting.
Apr 10, 2011 Gary rated it really liked it
Shelves: social-studies
This was a really good book. It has a lot of thick history but doesn't feel like it while you're reading
Nov 06, 2011 Ryan rated it it was amazing
A story that needs to be told.
May 08, 2009 Carolyn rated it really liked it
An interesting read!
Meredith Menke
Meredith Menke rated it really liked it
Apr 15, 2016
Heather rated it really liked it
Apr 11, 2016
Lori Williams
Lori Williams marked it as to-read
Mar 28, 2016
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David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. He is a contributing editor of Wired, Rolling Stone, and Spectrum and is an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
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