Our Towns: A 100,000 miles Journey into the Heart of America.
I have good news to share about the state of America!
I found optimism in a book called Our Towns: A 100,000 miles Journey into the Heart of America, by James and Deborah Fallows. David Brooks describes its message as “The American Renaissance is already happening”. My husband and I listened to it (it is narrated by the authors) as we drove up the Hudson Valley to visit friends. It gave us a new perspective on the small towns a few miles off the highway. It is a wonderful sound track for a long drive.
James Fallows is a long-time writer for the Atlantic Monthly and Deborah is an author with a PhD in linguistics. They write the book in alternating chapters. It is the chronicle of a four-year, 100,000-mile sojourn to dozens of American towns that have suffered from challenges like mill or mine closings or the exit of a primary local employer. The book explores how people and communities reinvent themselves. It is also the saga of a couple traversing America in their single engine Cirrus prop plane – piloted by James with Deb, who is not a pilot, prepared to pull the lever to release the parachute in a disaster.
The Fallows approached towns both as journalists who connected with local officials, entrepreneurs, teachers, librarians and community leaders, and as low-key visitors who stayed a few weeks and did laps at the local pool, checked out the public library and ate at home-grown restaurants. They report on the challenges – but they also find innovative solutions.
Our Towns inspired me with the reminder that in local communities there are people with creativity, compassion, energy, enthusiasm, hope, and a sense of responsibility for the greater good. They often welcome outsiders and immigrants who have fueled the turn-around in these towns. Communities of people are working together effectively to remake their towns – for everyone. I love these stories.
Goodreads on Our Towns: 3.7 With apologies to ASE reader Lisa C. who only reads books with better than a 4.0. This is worth making an exception.
This got me thinking about other classic books by wanderers who set out to ‘discover’ the America of their time.