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The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA
     

The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

by Doug Mack
 

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An eye-opening journey to the most overlooked parts of America.Everyone knows that America is 50 states and…some other stuff. Scattered shards in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the not-quite states—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and their 4 million people are often forgotten, even by

Overview

An eye-opening journey to the most overlooked parts of America.Everyone knows that America is 50 states and…some other stuff. Scattered shards in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the not-quite states—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and their 4 million people are often forgotten, even by most Americans. But they’re filled with American flags, U.S. post offices, and Little League baseball games. How did these territories come to be part of the United States? What are they like? And why aren’t they states? When Doug Mack realized just how little he knew about the territories, he set off on a globe-hopping quest covering more than 30,000 miles to see them all. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mack examines the Founding Fathers’ arguments over expansion. He explores Polynesia’s outsize influence on American culture, from tiki bars to tattoos, in American Samoa. He tours Guam with members of a military veterans’ motorcycle club, who offer personal stories about the territory’s role in World War II and its present-day importance for the American military. In the Northern Mariana Islands, he learns about star-guided seafaring from one of the ancient tradition’s last practitioners. And everywhere he goes in Puerto Rico, he listens in on the lively debate over political status—independence, statehood, or the status quo.The Not-Quite States of America is an entertaining account of the territories’ place in the USA, and it raises fascinating questions about the nature of empire. As Mack shows, the territories aren’t mere footnotes to American history; they are a crucial part of the story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/07/2016
A thoughtful blend of history, insight, and first-person experiences colors this travelogue focused on some of the most overlooked parts of America, the United States territories. Travel writer Mack (Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day) sets out to learn more about these distant neighbors and shares his insights in this entertaining, informative study. He explores each territory with an open mind and an open notebook, hanging out with beer-drinking pigs in Saint Croix and strolling through the world’s largest Kmart in Samoa. He also recounts more than a few sobering experiences, such as visiting Samoa’s Suicide Cliff, where thousands of Japanese civilians and troops leapt to their death to avoid capture by American troops. Mack’s thoughtful assessment of American colonialism, underlined by the question of which cultural aspects of each territory should be retained and which should be assimilated into broader American culture, is the spine of the book. Rather than taking an authoritative approach, Mack lets the residents do just as much of the talking and analyzing, making for a strong book sure to spark thought and inspire further research. Agent: Alice Tasman, Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency. (Feb.)
Booklist
“One will never think about the United States in quite the same way after this enjoyable read.”
Mark Stein
“To truly understand the United States, one must understand The Not-Quite States of America. Doug Mack opens our eyes to the variety of reasons we need them in this consistently entertaining read.”
Andrew Carroll
“Having ventured 30,000 miles to visit U.S. territories around the world, Doug Mack has embarked on one of the most extraordinary ‘American’ journeys of all time. Hilarious and moving, Mack also tackles serious issues—from the history of slavery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the role of Guam in World War II to the battles over the sweatshops of Saipan—all while exploring how these not-quite states came to be part of America. This book, quite simply, is travel writing at its finest.”
Eric Weiner
“Doug Mack, a connoisseur of the offbeat, turns his keen eye to the USA’s forgotten lands, and the result is the Great American Road Trip with a twist. Funny and engaging, Mack is the perfect guide to these simultaneously strange and familiar places, and the book goes to the heart of a perennial and, these days, urgent question: What does it mean to be American?”
Brady Carlson
“Our fellow Americans living in territories may not have senators or members of Congress to represent them. But they do have Doug Mack’s terrific book to reintroduce us to their unique histories and cultures and to point out just how connected we all really are to the people in these seemingly far-flung places. A fun and fascinating adventure.”
Library Journal
11/01/2016
Part travelog, part history, this is Mack's (Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day) journey to five U.S. territories, once considered strategically located. Specifically, the author wonders why the territories transitioned from an unavoidable subject, when presidential campaigns were based on expansion fervor, to nearly forgotten today. Mack befriends locals and immigrants in each locale: the cruise ship port of Charlotte Amalie in the U.S. Virgin Islands; American Samoa, which has the highest enlistment rate of any territory; and duty-free shops in Guam that sell Americana to international tourists. His travels also lead to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, a place of "saviors and savers"; and cafes in the populous Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, where he listens to passionate debates of statehood vs. independence. Throughout, Mack notes the unsteadiness and precariousness of daily life in which residents rarely have a say in the voting process (lack of representation in the Electoral College), the ongoing effects of colonialism, and a reliance on tourism to maintain economies. VERDICT An informative romp through the country's lesser-explored areas, this book will engage history and political science buffs, along with travelers interested in the complete United States of America.—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
Kirkus Reviews
2016-11-23
A tour of the territories of the United States, "those scattered shards of earth and populace that make up our outposts far from the North American continent."A peripatetic traveler, Mack (Europe on 5 Wrong Turns a Day: One Man, Eight Countries, One Vintage Travel Guide, 2012, etc.) decided to explore the five populated island augments to the U.S., providing an antic guide to their histories, geography, and economies, not to mention bits of ethnography. The first port of call is Charlotte Amalie, Saint Thomas, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which were once Danish and once home to Alexander Hamilton. Today, Mack finds them simultaneously a little dangerous and quite friendly. Thence we go to the sociable city of Pago Pago in American Samoa, which appears to be Middle America in the South Pacific, devout and devoted to football. Guam, which was so strategic during World War II, also evinces echt Americana. The commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands contains forlorn Saipan, which was crucial to victory in the Pacific; there, the author met "many outsiders with big dreams." It also boasts Banzai Cliff, where Japanese combatants and civilians hurled themselves to their deaths to avoid being captured by American forces. Finally, our guide takes us to bigger and more complex Puerto Rico, with a population of 3.5 million, the site of a wellspring of immigration to the mainland. There, the persistent question remains: statehood, independence, or just forget it? Throughout the deft narrative, Mack presents numerous revealing vignettes of far-flung Yankee civilization, many the results of our experiments with Manifest Destiny over a century ago, when Uncle Sam traveled to Polynesia, Micronesia, and the Caribbean searching for military outposts and a place in world affairs. An entertaining, informative guidebook to some cool places populated by people to whom attention should be paid.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393247602
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
02/14/2017
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
91,177
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Doug Mack is the author of Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day and has written for Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in Minneapolis.

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