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.)
"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."
"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."
"One will never think about the United States in quite the same way after this enjoyable read."
"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?"
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
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.
"Witty and thoughtful, with plenty of vibrant characters and vivid descriptions,
The Not-Quite States of America is also a well-researched history and a highly enjoyable travelogue. Frequent fliers and armchair travelers alike will relish Mack’s account."
Shelf Awareness - Katie Noah Gibson
"[Mack] finds surprising patriotism (and adventure) in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Sacramento Bee - Allen Pierleoni
"Funny, fascinating, and eye-opening in all the best ways."
Manhattan Book Review - Glenn Dallas
"Mack catalogues his thirty-thousand-mile trek through [the territories], and examines the traits they have inherited from the U.S.—little-league games, star-spangled banners—and the cultural crisscross that makes them unique examples of America’s own hybridized culture."
"Rollicking.… Mack peppers the account of his 30,000-mile trip with liberal doses of history."
Flung magazine - Poornima Apte
"With an eye for irony and amusing detail, [Mack’s] travelogue is often hilarious yet inevitably thoughtful."
Shepherd Express - David Luhrssen
"A read you can’t put down and can’t quit rolling around in your mind afterward."
Ploughshares - Nichole L. Reber
"Mack includes you in all the fun of his journey."
Seattle Times - Michael Upchurch
"Travel writing at its finest."
"A smart, funny meditation on the nature of American empire, Mack’s book has its poignant moments too, as he asks difficult questions about statehood and American identity."
The Longitude Blog - Jodie Vinson