I'm a historian specializing in American cities, suburbs, and metro areas. I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in American history at Columbia University, then served on the faculties at Arizona State University West and UC San Diego, where I was tenured in 2001. During my 9 years at UCSD, I taught hundreds of students, wrote two books, got married, had a kid, and did a monster commute from Los Angeles to La Jolla. In 2006, when our second kid arrived, I left "traditional" academia to become an L.A.-based historical scholar, writer, and consultant.
My work focuses on the history of North American suburbanization. I've been especially interested in exploring histories of suburban diversity, breaking free of "Ozzie and Harriet" stereotypes to discover what happened when workers, the poor, immigrants and ethnic and racial groups became suburbanites. My first book My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working-Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965 (Chicago 2002), told the story of blue-collar suburbanites in southeast Los Angeles, and how their everyday lives shaped their political sensibilities - they ultimately ended up as Reagan Democrats. It won best book awards from the AHA-Pacific Coast Branch and the Historical Society of Southern California. My second book The Suburb Reader 1st and 2nd editions (Routledge, 2006/2016), is co-edited with my long-time friend and collaborator Andy Wiese. It's a big, broad survey of North American suburban history, with tons of great documents, essays, illustrations, and scholarly excerpts to ground you in how the suburbs started, how they got to where they are today, and some ideas for moving forward in more sustainable, equitable ways. My latest book project, The New Suburbia: How Diversity Remade Suburban Life in Los Angeles After 1945 (Oxford, January 2024) explores everyday life in our changing suburban world. I've also written articles, blogs, and op-eds, for the New York Times, Washington Post, and academic publications - the recent stuff coming out of my New Suburbia project.
I'm excited to be part of a transnational team of scholars working on a project called “Urbanism and Suburbanization in the EU Countries and Abroad: Reflection in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts.” This initiative is funded by the EU Erasmus + program, and our team includes scholars from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, and the U.S. - Andy Wiese and I are representing the U.S. We look forward to learning from our EU colleagues and contributing to a transnational understanding of cities and suburbs during our 3 years on this project (2022-2024).
I've also worked as a consultant over the years -- on historic preservation projects for Survey LA, the LA Conservancy, and the state of California, and for various film projects. I dove deeply into the history of alcohol use in America, for a federally funded project that led to a one-year postdoc at UC Berkeley and one of my earliest academic publications. I am co-coordinator of the L.A History and Metro Studies group at the Huntington Library. I recently served as a subcommittee co-chair for Mayor Eric Garcetti's L.A. Civic Memory Working Group. And I've served on academic and editorial boards over the years, including most recently the Governing Council of the American Historical Association.
I've given numerous lectures and presentations, including talks at Princeton, UC Berkeley, UCLA, George Tech, University of Exeter, UK, and Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany. I am an affiliated scholar at USC. I'm married to a brilliant actor-film producer-engineer, with two kids and two dogs, and we live in the suburban foothills of L.A.