Portrait of Professor Christopher Sterba

Christopher Sterba

Lecturer Faculty
Humanities; American Studies
Email: cmsterba@sfsu.edu

I've been teaching at State for over fifteen years. My research focus is on 20th century U.S. cultural and political history, with special interest in American Cities and California. Right now, I am completing my second book, Not a Lost Generation: The Great War Veterans who Transformed American Popular Culture. In 2012-13, I was the Fulbright Professor of American Literature and Culture at the University of Bergen, Norway.



  • Ph.D. Brandeis University, 2000
  • M.A. Yale University, 1991
  • B.A. Bucknell University, 1988

Research Interests -- American Studies & U.S. History

  • Politics, Labor, and Immigration
  • Popular Culture
  • Cities
  • California Studies
  • U.S. Foreign Policy



  • Not a Lost Generation: The Great War Veterans who Transformed American Popular Culture. (near completion)
  • Good Americans: Italian and Jewish Immigrants during the First World War (Oxford University Press, 2003)

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

  • "'L'Affare Cocchi': The Murder of Ruth Cruger and the Tragedy and Promise of World War I New York," New York History (forthcoming--Summer 2024)
  • "Not a Lost Generation: James M. Cain, Al Dubin, and the Doughboy's Voice in Popular Culture between the Wars," Journal of American Studies (Feb. 2021)
  • "'I Ought to Know How Negroes Talk': A New Understanding of Spencer Williams, Jr.'s Life and Work in Film," California History (Fall 2019)
  • "'¿Quién es? ¿Quién es?': Revisiting the Racial Context of the Billy the Kid Legend,” Journal of American Studies (June 2017)
  • "Transcultural San Francisco: Andrew Furuseth, Olaf Tveitmoe, and the Forgotten Scandinavian-American Experience," Pacific Historical Review (Feb. 2016)
  • "'We Built Our Own School:’ The Cooperative Preschool Movement in the San Francisco Bay Area, 1940 to the Present," Western Historical Quarterly (Summer 2015)
  • “Taming the Wild West in the 1940s: Suburban Progressives in the San Francisco Bay Area,” California History (Spring 2015)
  • “‘Your Country Wants You’: New Haven's Italian Machine Gun Company Enters World War I,” The New England Quarterly (June 2001)
  •  “‘More Than Ever, We Feel Proud to Be Italians’: World War I and the New Haven Colonia, 1917-1918,” Journal of American Ethnic History (Winter 2001)
  • “The Education of an Italian Priest in America,” Italian American Review (Winter 2000)
  • “Family, Work, and Nation: Hazleton, Pennsylvania and the 1934 General Strike in Textiles,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (Jan./Apr. 1996)

Recent Papers:

  • "Natural Disasters and Imperial Dreams: California, Chile, and the Great Earthquakes of 1906," Canadian Association for American Studies annual meeting (September 2023)
  • "'Doughboys Who Kept Their Sense of Humor': Buster Keaton, Preston Sturges, and the Veteran-Comedians of World War I," American Literature Association conference, Boston (May 2023)
  • "A Postcolonial Iconography for Children: Chocolate, West Africa, and the Cadbury Schools Department, 1950-1970," Big Pictures: Murals, Billboards, and Urban Interventions conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada (May 2023)
  • "Racializing a Natural Disaster: San Francisco's Response to the Valparaíso Earthquake of 1906," American Society of Environmental History conference, Eugene, OR, (Mar. 2022)

Other Publications:

  • “Wartime Mobilization and Political Consciousness: The Case of East European Jewish Immigrants in the U.S." in Mark Raider, ed., An Equal Share of Freedom: American Jews, Zionism, and World War I (University of Cincinnati Press, 2023)
  • Co-Guest Editor, New York History Special Issue, (Winter 2007)
  • "World War I: Impact on American Jews," entry in Baskin, ed., Cambridge Dictionary of Judaism and Jewish Culture (Cambridge, 2011)
  • “American Jews and World War I,” entry in Pollock and Norwood, eds., The Encyclopedia of American Jewish History (ABC-CLIO, 2007)

Selected Book Reviews:

  • "Still Searching for the 'Real' Billy the Kid." Review essay of Mills, Billy the Kid: El Bandido Simpático and Etulain, Thunder in the West: The Life and Legends of Billy the Kid, in New Mexico Historical Review (Summer 2023)
  • Hulme, After the Shock City: Urban Culture and the Making of Modern Citizenship, in Journal of American History (Dec. 2019)
  • Hodges, World War I and Urban Order: The Local Class Politics of National Mobilization, in Journal of American History (Dec. 2017)
  • Cherlin, Labor’s Love Lost: The Rise and Fall of the Working-Class Family in America, in Pacific Historical Review (May 2017)
  • Zimmer, Immigrants Against the State: Jewish and Italian Anarchism in America, in American Jewish History (Oct. 2016)
  • Gutiérrez, Doughboys on the Great War in Journal of American History (Dec. 2015)
  • Weiner, Coalfield Jews in American Historical Review (Oct. 2007)

Courses Taught at SFSU

  • HUM 225: Values in American Life
  • HUM 376: San Francisco
  • HUM 375: Biography of a City: New York
  • HUM 375: Biography of a City: Chicago
  • HUM 375: Biography of a City: Boston
  • HUM 450/AMST 410: California Culture
  • HUM 485: Arts in American Culture
  • HUM 490: American Images: Photography & Literature