Memoir Brings Alive Little Noted History of City Life in the Mid-20th Century

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Retired History Professor, Richard M. Abrams, recounts the games he played daily in the streets of Brooklyn in New Book

Richard M. Abrams, a retired U.C. Berkeley professor of modern U.S. history, recreates the many games, some of them now all-but extinct, played in the city streets daily by boys and girls during the turbulent era of the Great Depression, the Second World War, and the increasingly prosperous post-war environment.

Abrams was born in Brooklyn in 1932 when cramped urban living quarters were commonplace, and limited income constricted access to organized sports venues and equipment. His was "an outdoor generation" forced to depend on imaginative use of scarce resources to satisfy the universal need for play.

From many conversations over the years with his children, colleagues, friends, and students, he came to realize how few people today have any idea of the kinds of recreation that filled daily life for young city people in the years of his own youth. Street Games is a combination of Abrams's reminiscences of the games that he played and his placement of those activities in the social history of the period, often highlighting its contrast with the world we know today.

The work is compelling, informative, and fast-paced in its description of a mostly lost piece of history. It is also fascinating for its speculations about such things as the hidden meaning of "It" in games of tag, the small regard for safety (helmets? face masks? seat belts?), and the complex character of racism and ethnic tensions in those times. One reader has written, “I have not read anything in recent years that gave me such pure, sustained pleasure.”

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About the Author
Richard M. Abrams was born and raised in Brooklyn. He earned his BA, MA and Ph.D. degrees at Columbia University. He began teaching history at Columbia in 1957 and moved to Berkeley in 1961. Abrams taught at the University of California until his retirement in 2007. He is married to Marcia Ash Abrams and they have three children and four grandchildren. His other books include Conservatism in a Progressive Era; The Burdens of Progress: America 1900-1929; America Transformed: Sixty Years of Revolutionary Change, 1940-2001.

Street Games * by Richard M. Abrams
Bygone Times in Brooklyn
Publication Date: November 29, 2012
Picture Book; $32.49; 84 pages; 978-1-4797-3345-3
Picture Book Hardcover; $38.99; 84 pages; 978-1-4797-3346-0
eBook; 3.99; 978-1-4797-3347-7

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