Family Secrets, Financial Collapse and a Hidden History of American Banking
New Press 2017
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in EconomicsNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Public PolicyNew Books Network January 1, 2018 Lilian Calles Barger
Alice Echols is a professor of history and the Barbra Streisand Chair of Contemporary Gender Studies at the University of Southern California. In her book Shortfall: Family Secrets, Financial Collapse and a Hidden History of American Banking (New Press, 2017) Echols offers a narrative and social history of American capitalism in the years of and preceding the Great Depression by focusing not on Wall Street but on Main Street and the men who ran hundreds of small-town building and loan associations across the nation. Situated in Colorado Springs she reconstructs the life of her shrewd and ambitious grandfather Walter Davis, who emerged from virtually nowhere to become a small town finance man running the City Savings Building and Loan Association. He gained and betrayed the trust of hundreds of depositors who invested their life savings to secure the American dream of homeownership and financial security. They found their lives destroyed by an unregulated industry and Davis’s dishonest practices. Shortfall is both the story of American capitalism told from the bottom up and of Echols uncovering her own family secrets of ill-gotten gain, decadence, scandal, loss, and ultimate despair that reflected the lives of millions across the nation. Shortfall offers lessons in the dangers associated with small-town finance men, land speculators, depositors in denial, ill-equipped investigators, inexperienced judges and an unregulated financial marketplace.
Lilian Calles Barger is a cultural, intellectual and gender historian. Her current book project is entitled The World Come of Age: An Intellectual History of Liberation Theology is forthcoming in 2018 from Oxford University Press.