In American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business and the End of White America, former Wall Street Journal columnist Leon E. Wynter (Crown, $25, 288 pages, ISBN 0609604899) makes a cogent case that consumer culture has radically changed the terms of racial discussion in America. Our identity is now transracial, based more on our spending habits than on our skin color. Part cultural history, part business history, American Skin outlines the major cultural events that have shaped American life and with great historiographic skill traces the changes in marketing that followed those events.
From the famous Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola commercial to the introduction of Revlon's Colorstyle line, Wynter argues that advertising has subtly changed the way we view ourselves as Americans. The melting pot "into which generations of European American identities are said to have dissolved, is bubbling again," Wynter writes, and the flame firing that brew is big business. This is a fascinating book with a hopeful message about the interaction of democracy and the marketplace.