Dividing Paradise

In honor of Public Works Week, we take a sociological look at city development and planning in Dividing Paradise. This week's review presents a case study of Paradise Valley, which demonstrates class tensions and economic disparity in rural areas.

Dividing Paradise: Rural Inequality and the Diminishing American Dream

Sherman, Jennifer. California, 2021
288p bibl index, 9780520305137 $85.00, 9780520305144 $29.95, 9780520973275 $29.95

Dividing Paradise: Rural Inequality and the Diminishing American Dream book cover. Watercolor painting of modern, wealthy house in green above simpler houses below in teal/gray.

In Dividing Paradise, Sherman (Washington State Univ.) presents a qualitative case study of social dynamics in Paradise Valley, a rural town in Washington State. The modest-sized city has attracted many migrants from more urban settings enthusiastic about the beautiful mountain views, proximity to recreational opportunities, relatively low cost of living, and rustic way of life. These newcomers have transformed the town, bringing in such amenities as coffee shops, restaurants, specialty shops, arts groups, and nonprofit organizations more typically associated with larger urban areas. However, these transformations have resulted in tensions between newcomers to Paradise Valley and longtime residents, who tend to have lower incomes, less education, and less access to resources compared to the newcomers. Longtimers also possess more socially and culturally conservative attitudes. These relationships between newer and longtime residents are a primary focus of the author, who analyzes what the increasing tensions between those with and those without the resources to achieve their life goals say about polarization in the contemporary US. This quite readable book is not laden with academic jargon or theory, making it excellent for students and scholars of rural sociology. It also makes a significant contribution to the broader American studies literature.

Summing Up: Highly recommended. General readers through faculty; professionals.
M. E. Pfeifer, State University of New York Polytechnic Institute
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Urban Studies
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Sociology
Choice Issue: Feb 2022

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