51 pages 1 hour read

Bill Bryson

One Summer: America, 1927

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2013

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Bigotry Undergirded American Culture in the 1920s

The underlying role of bigotry in America is a theme that becomes more explicit late in the book, though it is detectible from its beginning if the reader knows about certain historical events of the 1920s—namely, the popularity of the Ku Klux Klan, the policies of the Jim Crow South, the prominence of eugenics in American society and academics, immigration reform, or the Red Scare.

A reader might notice that most of the main characters Bryson analyzes in the book are white, Protestant men (until he discusses “The Anarchists” in Part 4). Americans valued that demographic above all others by and large. Bryson’s exclusion of women from the narrative is not an act of bigotry itself, but instead a mirror of the circumstances of 1927. There are a few women of note in the story, but the reader sees how sexism plagues them. For example, Gertrude Ederle enjoyed a moment of fame when she became the first woman, and fastest-ever swimmer, to swim across the English Channel in 1926. The world lost interest in her shortly after her achievement because she “was not terribly interesting or attractive” out of the water (153).