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Over my dead body : unearthing the hidden history of America's cemeteries
2022
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This entertaining and illuminating history chronicles the evolution of burial practices in the U.S. Documenting the influence of overseas mortuary innovations and shifts in social, religious, and cultural customs, journalist Melville (Greasy Rider) describes the grim early boneyards of colonial Jamestown and Plymouth; the emergence of landscaped garden cemeteries such as Cambridge, Mass.'s Mount Auburn in the mid-19th century; the post--Civil War rise of military cemeteries; the advent of opulent suburban cemeteries; and the 1917 innovation of the lawn-park design--in which grave markers are embedded flat in the ground--at Glendale, Calif.'s Forest Lawn Memorial-Park, which "probably contains more stars per square foot than any zip code in Los Angeles." Mortuary practices continue to evolve, according to Melville, who notes an increase in cremations over the past two decades, as well as recent booms in digital cemeteries and environmentally friendly green burials. He also details repeated desecrations of Native American burial grounds, ongoing racial and religious segregation in American cemeteries, and how the "Death Industrial Complex" exploits grieving families. Throughout, Melville's wry humor enlivens discussions of arcane yet intriguing historical figures and archaeological discoveries. This colorful study fascinates. Photos. Agent: Lindsay Edgecombe, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary. (Oct.)
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