The past is commonly documented in writing, and books bring us back in time, giving us the opportunity to eyewitness history from the stories of those before us. With this comes the profound joy and beauty of reading.
The list of books below provides examples related to the American Dream, which may be different than we know it today. By perusing them, you can immerse yourself into a time when values surrounding the American Dream shaped society as we know it.
1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
A memorable classic set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s, it reveals themes of the American Dream and class inequality through the story of Jay Gatsby, his fervent love and lavish parties on Long Island.
2. Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
A 1949 stage play about the superficial success illuded to salesman Willy Loman as influenced by the societal perception of the American Dream.
3. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry
A play first premiered in 1959 that revolves around the American Dream and calls for racial justice by depicting the struggles of an African American working class family in South Chicago.
4. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Another page-turning classic, this novel illustrates the hardships of a family from Oklahoma who reevaluates their goal of the American Dream after being forced to migrate following the hit of the Great Depression.
5. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Published before the Civil Rights movement, this book exposes the exploitation of African Americans and addresses their individual identity as the narrator tactically fights back against the oppressors in Harlem.
6. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
This book follows a Connecticut couple in the 1950s, but their hopes and aspirations ultimately turn tragic as a result of their own deception and disillusion of the American Dream.
7. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
One of my favorite classics, this phenomenal novel of American literature tells the childhood of Jean Louise Finch in a fictional Southern town during the Great Depression. A balance of mystery, comedy, and drama, it takes on the themes of good vs. evil as well as inequality in terms of class, race, and gender.
8. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger
This book addresses the complex problems of identity, depression, sex, alienation, and loss of innocence through the transition from adolescence to adulthood as experienced by the teenager Holden Caulfield.
9. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Despite social status differences, two families in Shaker Heights, Ohio are brought together by the friendships of their children, but their bond is threatened to be torn apart due to opposing stands on a custody battle. Read on to find out more about each character’s story, the secrets that they carry, and the challenges of motherhood.
10. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This one's for you if you are looking for a shorter read. Crafted in a series of vignettes, it tells the story of a Latina girl named Esperanza Cordero growing up in Chicago, but be warned that there are sensitive issues such as domestic and sexual abuse and racism.