American Renaissance

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.

Our Towns: A 100,000 miles Journey into the Heart of America. Hardcover $17.37, Kindle $14.99, Audiobook $24.50 (or 1 Audible credit).

David Brooks Column: The American Renaissance is already happening

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.

Blue Highways (A Journey Into America) by William Least Heat Moon. 1981

Lewis and Clark. Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose

Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck.

On The Road by Jack Kerouac, first published in 1957

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, 1831