American Dream: Walking in the Shoes of Carnies, Arms Dealers, Immigrant Dreamers, Pot Farmers, and Christian Believers

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Overview

For some, the American Dream is a pre-fab house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a two-week vacation at the end of the year. To others, it is working a push fruit cart in Oakland in order to put food on the family’s table in Oaxaca. In The American Dream Harmon Leon draws upon his experiences of adopting personas and disguises to infiltrate the various institutions of everyday life, living among a diverse range of subcultures and learning first hand how they see their vision and utopia. His incursions include ...

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The American Dream: Walking in the Shoes of Carnies, Arms Dealers, Immigrant Dreamers, Pot Farmers, and Christian Believ

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Overview

For some, the American Dream is a pre-fab house in the suburbs with 2.5 kids and a two-week vacation at the end of the year. To others, it is working a push fruit cart in Oakland in order to put food on the family’s table in Oaxaca. In The American Dream Harmon Leon draws upon his experiences of adopting personas and disguises to infiltrate the various institutions of everyday life, living among a diverse range of subcultures and learning first hand how they see their vision and utopia. His incursions include working as a marijuana farmer in a hippie commune in Northern California; becoming a carnie in rural Indiana; visiting a tourist attraction in Mexico (that allows people to simulate illegally crossing the border); venturing to Hollywood while trying to climb the ranks in the star-making machine; and working in the strawberries fields of California with newly arrived immigrants. The American Dream is a funny, satirical, and ultimately poignant take on what it means to be an American today.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
CivilianReader
Sprinkled with serious observations and facts, Leon manages to get across the real nature of all these people; describing the difficulties faced by illegals, for example, but also painting honest portraits of his subjects that both entertain and enlighten… And because Leon doesn't focus solely on the usual subcultures (i.e. Christians), The American Dream will surely have something for anyone interested in reading a little more about the less-‘standard’ people in America.”

Rocky Mountain News
“This book will make your sides hurt…A master of disguise – and literary hijinx – Leon satirizes all that’s comical and commendable about the American Dream.”

Carson Daly, on Last Call with Carson Daly
"Dangerous, endlessly entertaining....Read the book it’s fantastic. Trust me this is great!"

Boulder Weekly
“In a quasi-democratic, pseudo-caplitalistic society like ours, citizens tend to create extremist subcultures, and Gonzo chameleon Harmon Leon has made a career out of infiltrating those eccentric covens.”

The Guardian, UK
“This manic mix of Borat and Hunter S Thompson is amusing”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781568583525
  • Publisher: Nation Books
  • Publication date: 9/22/2008
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Harmon Leon is an award-winning San Francisco journalist. His first two books, The Harmon Chronicles and Republican Like Me, both won Independent Publisher Awards for humor. His other books include The Infiltrator, National Lampoon’s Road Trip USA, and The Brothers Rjukerooka. Harmon has appeared on The Howard Stern Show, Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, The Jamie Kennedy Experiment, E!, and Public Radio International’s This American Life. His writing as also appeared in Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Details, Penthouse, Wired, and more.

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Table of Contents

I Immigrant American dream 1

II Carny American dream 35

III Cult of celebrity American dream 73

IV Military American dream 127

V Bible-thumping American dream 127

VI Swinger American dream 171

VII Hollywood American dream 199

VIII Reality television show American dream 223

IX Marijuana American dream 249

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 14, 2008

    This Book Will Make Your Sides Hurt.

    Book in a nutshell: Humor writing is a tricky business. How does one translate real-life anecdotes or humorous thoughts into laughs on the page? In his first four books - most recently National Lampoon's Road Trip USA, which commemorated the 25th anniversary of the film National Lampoon's Vacation - author and comedian Leon gives a veritable clinic on how to be funny in print.<BR/><BR/>Leon's shtick is to adopt a persona and "infiltrate" unsuspecting organizations by posing as a potential member - with madcap results. In past outings, Leon has worked as a bounty hunter, dined with white supremacists, partied with Promise Keepers and even co-hosted a DVD prank show with O.J. Simpson.<BR/><BR/>Here, Leon rubs elbows with folks in search of the American Dream, be it carnival workers in the Midwest, pot farmers in northern California, would-be immigrants in Mexico and suburban swingers. He even gets outed - for the first time in his career - at a celebrity impersonator convention, proving that it takes a fake to spot a fake.<BR/><BR/>Beneath all the humor is a human touch. While mocking the absurdity of particular groups and situations, Leon's writing shows a fondness or at least appreciation for his subjects, be they fundamentalist Christians or carnies running the ring toss. He even lets his targets have their say, introducing each chapter with an essay from a member of the community he's infiltrated-including one penned by Boulder-based Ozzy Osbourne impersonator Don Wrege.<BR/><BR/>Best tidbit: Leon's 10-page account of his appearance on the television show Blind Date, which involved heavy doses of public intoxication and lederhosen. (Hilarious footage of this is available on YouTube.)<BR/><BR/>Pros: This book will make your sides hurt.<BR/><BR/>Cons: The personal essays from Leon's targets disrupt the comic momentum without adding much to the final product.<BR/><BR/>Final word: A master of disguise - and literary hijinx - Leon satirizes all that's comical and commendable about the American Dream.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2008

    An amusing, poignant look at the less-than-ordinary pursuits of happiness

    Harmon Leon, an award-winning author and journalist, is a very funny man. In American Dream, he has taken a magnifying glass to the various different ways that people in the US pursue their idea of what constitutes 'the American Dream'. America is perhaps the epitome of the individual-centric nation. Despite that, politicians for generations have talked about what the American Dream might be, usually coming up with a rather conservative, standard ideal of owning your own home, a car or two, a secure and well-paid job and being able to care for your family (and eat whatever you like). All well and good for the majority of Americans, but what about those others who have a different idea in mind? How would one go about defining the American Dream? 'In order to better understand the ellusive definition behind these words, I'll infiltrate the lives of vastly different people,' Leon writes. And so, he infiltrates the subcultures of... Illegal Immigrants: dreaming of being able to earn a decent wage in the Land Of The Free, mainly because there's no work in the broken economies of their home countries, they put up with back-breaking conditions to earn just over $8/hour. Leon decides that he's going to see what it's acatually like, to start in America as an illegal, so he goes to an 'Illegal Immigrant Park/Resort' to experience the crossing, without actually doing it. It's a rather bizarre experience, and one he describes in vivid detail. A more serious chapter, Leon gives a good account of what life really is like for illegals in America, balancing the humour nicely. 'Carnies': travelling carnival workers who all seem to think Leon's an undercover cop, all of whom seem to be complete freaks who have done jail-time. ('No matter how hard I try freaking out the carnies, they always end up freaking me out more.') Bible-thumping Christians: a common enough subject for anyone studying the American experience/experiment. While Leon deals with them very well, I can't help but feel that Matt Taibbi and Nicholas Guyatt do a better, funny- and-terrifying-at-the-same-time job of trying to explain the ever-increasing number of evangelical Christians in America. Celebrity Impersonators: 'The American Dream is in thrall to the ideal of 'celebrity'... In this cult-of-celebrity obsessed world, simply looking and acting like a famous celebrity is an American Dream.' Following an intro by an Ozzy Osbourne impersonator, Leon infiltrates the world of celebrity, attending a convention for impersonators in Las Vegas (where else?) populated by plenty of Cher, Shania Twain, Elvis and Willie Nelson impersonators. Leon tries to pass for a blonde Austin Powers impersonator, with some pretty funny results. Leon also looks at life as a pot-farmer, a gun-toting military-nut, a swinger (a very funny chapter), and a Hollywood hopeful (reality TV, too). Sprinkled with serious observations and facts, Leon manages to get across the real nature of all these people describing the difficulties faced by illegals, for example, but also painting honest portraits of his subjects that both entertain and enlighten. If I had but one criticism it would be that his editor needed to weild some scissors a little more enthusiastically, and perhaps reign him in a little more, as he's not as skilled at maintaining the funny as some other authors. (The chapter about Carnies was too long and repetitive, for example.) Nevertheless, The American Dream is filled with laugh-out-loud moments and satirical fun at the expense of Leon's subjects. If you're down with American humour, you'll like this a lot. Underlying the whole book is a large dose of silliness - Leon will make fun of anyone and anything - the book has brilliant, wry one-liners throughout. And because Leon doesn't focus solely on the usual subcultures (i.e. Christians), The American Dream will s

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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