The Little Girl who Fought the Great Depression: Shirley Temple and 1930s America
W.W. Norton & Company Ltd, $34.95 hb, 320 pp, 9780393240795
Lucky Shirley Temple! Film star biographies are usually made up of a chronology laced with doubtful studio publicity and salacious gossip. But The Little Girl Who Fought the Great Depression is written by a reigning scholar of American culture, John F. Kasson. A professor of History and American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kasson takes entertainment seriously. For more than forty years, beginning with Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century (1971), he has uncovered the cultural significance of popular leisure-time activities, places, and personalities in a style that is both scholarly and entertaining. His Houdini, Tarzan and the Perfect Man: The White Male Body and the Challenge of Modernity in America (2001) used three mini-biographies to explore the ‘masculinity crisis’ of the early twentieth century. In The Little Girl, he focuses on one icon to help us see how Americans survived the Great Depression.