Elizabeth Sine’s Rebel Imaginaries revisits California in the tumultuous 1930s, when the Great Depression prompted “efforts by people from the grassroots to imagine and pursue their liberation on their own terms” (1). Arguing that labor union campaigns and policy debates did not “encompass the totality of grassroots political activities or emancipatory hopes,” Sine focuses instead on local efforts, which “provided grounds for reimagining life and producing new, oppositional modes of being and belonging” (17–18). Her analysis highlights three themes: multiracialism, internationalism, and surrealism, the latter defined as the tendency to challenge “the rationalist strictures governing liberal thought” (11). Using these concepts to organize six case studies, Sine “seeks a history of the popular front from below,” one that features grassroots actors working to “define freedom for themselves in a world where freedom held different meanings for different people” (9).

Sine’s analysis succeeds on many fronts. In a few strokes, her...

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