Tinsel : a search for America's Christmas present / Hank Stuever.

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    • Abstract:
      Summary: In "Tinsel," Hank Stuever turns his unerring eye for the idiosyncrasies of modern life to Frisco, Texas, a suburb at once all-American and completely itself, to tell the story of the nation's most over-the-top celebration: Christmas.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references.
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Booklist Reviews 2009 November #1

*Starred Review* Stuever, a writer for the style section of the Washington Post, transplanted himself in 2006 to Frisco, Texas, from the day after Thanksgiving through the Christmas season. He was in search of the meaning of Christmas in America and why it is so freighted with emotions and economics. He befriended several Texans, including Tammie, an upper-middle-class woman with a side business decorating the homes of other upper-middle-class women too busy to decorate for themselves; Carroll, a struggling single mom devoted to her prosperity-preaching megachurch; geeky Jeff and snarky Bridgette, whose house features a Christmas light show synchronized to music that attracts thousands. Stuever also offers up a fascinating history of how Christmas has evolved across cultures and economies to now include career Santas, family squabbles about locales, the search for perfect gifts and worthy needy families, the relentless drumbeat of retail seduction, and the guilty days of reckoning in January. Stuever returned to Frisco in 2007 and 2008 to chronicle how the financial meltdown and the recession impacted the spirit of Christmas. By focusing on one town and a few families, and interweaving the anthropology and economics of Christmas, Stuever offers a sometimes hilarious, sometimes cynical, but always heartfelt look at the meaning of Christmas to Americans. Completely wonderful. Copyright 2009 Booklist Reviews.

PW Reviews 2009 August #4

Stuever, a Washington Post staff writer and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, has appeared on The View, The Today Show and NPR with his incisive commentaries. Following Off Ramp, he returns for another heartland safari, this time to observe Christmas celebrations in Frisco, Tex. He explains: "This book takes place over three holiday seasons (2006, 2007 and 2008) among three unrelated families who live in a new megaworld north of Dallas, a place that often seemed to have surrendered its identity to the shopper within." His seasonal survey begins with Tammie Parnell, who runs a business decorating other people's homes. In the chapter "There Glows the Neighborhood," he describes the "Trykoski lights," a house decorated with 50,000 lights, and traces this holiday history back to 2004 when Carson Williams scored a million-plus Internet hits after synchronizing 16,000 lights to music. Stuever watches the 1.1 million-square-foot Stonebriar Centre mall being decorated at midnight. While single mom Caroll Cavazos shops with her family at Best Buy, the author has an epiphany ("I see it as Caroll sees it. Real lives are being lived here"), and later he goes with her to church and a potluck dinner gift-swap. With impeccable research and solid reporting, Stuever has written the gift book that keeps on giving—Christmas consumerism wrapped together with traditional family values. (Nov. 12)

[Page 57]. Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.