Growing Up with America
download cover image ►

Growing Up with America

Youth, Myth, and National Identity, 1945 to Present

Title Details

Pages: 278

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 09/01/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5781-2

List Price: $36.95


Pub Date: 09/01/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5780-5

List Price: $120.95


Pub Date: 09/15/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5779-9

List Price: $120.95

Growing Up with America

Youth, Myth, and National Identity, 1945 to Present

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews
  • Awards

When D. H. Lawrence wrote his classic study of American literature, he claimed that youth was the “true myth” of America. Beginning from this assertion, Emily A. Murphy traces the ways that youth began to embody national hopes and fears at a time when the United States was transitioning to a new position of world power. In the aftermath of World War II, persistent calls for the nation to “grow up” and move beyond innocence became common, and the child that had long served as a symbol of the nation was suddenly discarded in favor of a rebellious adolescent. This era marked the beginning of a crisis of identity, where literary critics and writers both sought to redefine U.S. national identity in light of the nation’s new global position.

The figure of the adolescent is central to an understanding of U.S. national identity, both past and present, and of the cultural forms (e.g., literature) that participate in the ongoing process of representing the diverse experiences of Americans. In tracing the evolution of this youthful figure, Murphy revisits classics of American literature, including J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, alongside contemporary bestsellers. The influence of the adolescent on some of America’s greatest writers demonstrates the endurance of the myth that Lawrence first identified in 1923 and signals a powerful link between youth and one of the most persistent questions for the nation: What does it mean to be an American?

Rich, surprising, and idiosyncratic. . . opens up new connections and elucidates how the US’ dominant myths are unraveled in children’s fiction.

—Jess Cotton, American Literary Review

This book is impressive in its scope and will be particularly interesting to scholars of American literature or post–World War II American history. Murphy’s emphasis on the literary turn from the figure of the white male child to a more diverse collection of adolescent characters provides a novel approach to material other scholars have also begun considering by approaching diversity through an age-oriented lens. . . . makes an important argument that scholars in its multiple fields would do well to consider.

—Sarah M. Hedgecock, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth


Book Award for Nonfiction, International Research Society for Children's Literature

About the Author/Editor

EMILY A. MURPHY is a lecturer in children's literature at Newcastle University. She has published in Children’s Literature Association Quarterly; the Lion and the Unicorn; and Jeunesse: Young People, Texts, Cultures. Her essays also appear in Prizing Children’s Literature: The Cultural Politics of Children’s Book Awards and Connecting Childhood and Old Age in Popular Media.