Book of the Week #50

Dirty Whites and Dark Secrets: Sex and Race in Peyton Place by Sally Hirsh-Dickinson (Durham, NH: University of NH Press, 2011)

Part of the Revisiting New England series, this volume by NHPR host Sally Hirsh-Dickinson investigates the connections between the white identity and the black history of this small New England town and the ways those tensions manifest in the novel.

The first full-length scholarly study of Peyton Place, Grace Metalious’s classic story of New England indiscretion.

In a surprise rereading of the classic Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, Sally Hirsh-Dickinson contends that it scandalized the nation precisely because of the way in which sexuality in the novel is conflated with America’s problematic relationship to race. This charge is buttressed by the oft-forgotten detail that the fictional Peyton Place was founded by one Samuel Peyton, an escaped slave.

Hirsh-Dickinson argues that the town’s inability to come to terms with its black history informs its dysfunctional relationship to sex, power, and justice, mirroring America on the eve of the civil rights movement. She writes of New England in the larger American consciousness, touching on discussions of white studies and the racialized lower classes in American fiction. Dirty Whites and Dark Secrets is a thought-provoking study of a genre classic that will speak to both scholars and students about the deeper truths hidden in popular fiction." (publisher's blurb)

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