An illuminating history of North America's 11 rival cultural regions that explodes the red state/blue state myth.
North America was settled by people with distinct religious, political, and ethnographic characteristics, creating regional cultures that have been at odds with one another ever since. Subsequent immigrants didn't confront or assimilate into an "American" or "Canadian" culture, but rather into one of the 11 distinct regional ones that spread over the continent, each staking out mutually exclusive territory.
In American Nations, Colin Woodard leads us on a journey through the history of our fractured continent and the rivalries and alliances between its component nations, which conform to neither state nor international boundaries. He illustrates and explains why "American" values vary sharply from one region to another.
Woodard reveals how intranational differences have played a pivotal role at every point in the continent's history, from the American Revolution and the Civil War to the tumultuous sixties and the "blue county/red county" maps of recent presidential elections. American Nations is a revolutionary and revelatory take on America's myriad identities and how the conflicts between them have shaped our past and are molding our future.
©2011 Colin Woodward (P)2011 Gildan Media Corp
"Woodard offers a fascinating way to parse American (writ large) politics and history in this excellent book." (Kirkus)
"Woodard explains away partisanship in American Nations... which makes the provocative claim that our culture wars are inevitable. North America was settled by groups with distinct political and religious value - and we haven't had a moment's peace since." (Publishers Weekly)
Prior to reading this, I had an idea what I was getting into because I watched the youtube clip of the MSNBC interview with the author and I actually made it completely through the entire book. I made it a point to resist the urge to give Mr. Woodard a 1-star review because the first 2/3 or so of the book was interesting and entertaining. I tip my hat to Mr Woodard for teaching me previously unknown facts and a fresh take on US regionalism from our nation's nascent days. Then came the final 1/3 of the book when Mr. Woodard pulled out his political soapbox and began a relentless intense disparagement of his definition of the Deep South. Prior to the latter section of the book, I noted more than a few obvious biased anti-Southern remarks but at least his earlier denigrating remarks were somewhat sparse and cloaked with an attempt at facts, even if the facts were somewhat truncated and skewed. By the last 1/3 or so of his book, the gloves were completely off and in addition to Woodard's antipathy for all things Southern, we get a nice condescending dose of the typical liberal political planks. The author obviously loves all things New England, climate change, abortion (choice), big government, high taxes and secularism to name a few. He obviously dislikes all things Southern United States, corporations, all forms of warfare (all wars in our history were avoidable-yes, Woodard actually wrote that), and all forms of religion but especially Christianity. After reading this, I thank Mr. Woodard for giving me a tour through the liberal Yankee mind but I only hope all of New England or "Yankeedom" as he calls it, doesn't hold such a haughty attitude toward the South. When I've visited New England, more than once, sitting on a barstool, I've heard New Englanders laughingly refer to the South by saying, "The war's not over down there" and I now agree. The Civil War of 1861-1865 rages on, at least in the mind of Mr. Woodard. Hopefully, someday soon, he'll be able to call the social debt paid and his personal statute of limitations reached. The peoples of the South aren’t disappearing; they’re evolving. And so, we hope, is every other form of American.
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To start, this was a very interesting book! I very much enjoyed the first section, and as one who has parentage from various parts of Europe, raised in El Norte and the Far West, and living for many years in SE Asia, I could clearly see many of the perspectives our ethnic origins brought to the nation.
However, this book was clearly biased against certain ethnic-regions. While I am in no way defending the ideology many of our ancestors had during the formation our nation, any reader can clearly see the skewed perspective of the author.
Like a Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh radio show, the author used statements out of context, choosing the worst-of-the-worst from some and defending others without evidentiary support. Unfortunately, in the second-half of the book, the information went from factual, to biased. The author skipped over a lot of the modern political landscape. For example, little to nothing was said regarding "modern" politics, such as the failures of the Nixon era, the Carter presidency, and the reasonings behind the transitions between liberal and conservative that brought about the Reagan / Bush / Clinton / Bush eras. He jumped over the many positive and negative ethno-regional issues that came to the forefront during the Clinton era, and the presidency of George Bush Sr, to focus on the overtly poor choices made during the George W. Bush era (foregoing completely what ancestral tendencies led him to handle the 9-11 attacks, how the nation rallied together during that time, and what drew them together) up to Obama's election in 2008.
Unfortunately, the very last chapter was almost fictionally idealistic. While I personally would love to see the communal society used by the Inuit peoples of Greenland and Northern-most North America successfully implemented in other regions - we cannot forget that others, like Mao Tse Tung and his Great Leap Forward, implemented systems that would provide communal lands, communal food shares, shared work - yet resulted in the brutal torture, murder, and starvation of millions of Chinese people.
I would have given this book a 5-star rating if it had remained balanced.
If you want to understand America and how a people who share a common language and country can be so different and at times so deeply divided, AMERICAN NATIONS is the book for you.
The author gives an interesting account of us history but fails to give any explanation for much of anything; as is he is far to focused on details.
Near the end of the book the Author's explanations, which made sense at the beginning of the book, begin to fall apart. Author contradicts himself on many accounts.
The interpretation of American History in this book reveals and explains much of what is taking place today, in the second decade of the 21st century. Simply and profoundly presented, this should be required reading in all schools at the high school level.
Not bad in terms of content. the overview and origin story for each nation were the best parts. The latter chapters tended to bog down in terms of regional stereotypes. Also, does not really deal with the transcience of American society and the influence of media that neutralizes definitive boundaries between the groups.
The information is highly interesting but is sometimes dry and confusing. Multiple terms for one concept leads the reader/listener to follow many routes of thought, making the information less clear than it could be. But very interesting nonetheless.
A very well researched and organized explanation of how "things" started and got to be where they are today, and whrre we might be headed. "Things" being the sociopolitical situation in US and nearby North America.
You'll never understand our crazy politics and declining empires unless you read this book. No book I've read does a better or more comprehensive job.
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