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Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the "Real" America [Kindle Edition]

Dante Chinni , James Gimpel
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $11.84
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A revolutionary new way to understand America's complex cultural and political landscape, with proof that local communities have a major impact on the nation's behavior-in the voting booth and beyond.

In a climate of culture wars and tremendous economic uncertainty, the media have often reduced America to a simplistic schism between red states and blue states. In response to that oversimplification, journalist Dante Chinni teamed up with political geographer James Gimpel to launch the Patchwork Nation project, using on-the-ground reporting and statistical analysis to get past generalizations and probe American communities in depth. The result is Our Patchwork Nation, a refreshing, sometimes startling, look at how America's diversities often defy conventional wisdom.

Looking at the data, they recognized that the country breaks into twelve distinct types of communities, and old categories like "soccer mom" and "working class" don't matter as much as we think. Instead, by examining Boom Towns, Evangelical Epicenters, Military Bastions, Service Worker Centers, Campus and Careers, Immigration Nation, Minority Central, Tractor Community, Mormon Outposts, Emptying Nests, Industrial Metropolises, and Monied Burbs, the authors demonstrate the subtle distinctions in how Americans vote, invest, shop, and otherwise behave, reflect what they experience on their local streets and in their daily lives. Our Patchwork Nation is a brilliant new way to debate and examine the issues that matter most to our communities, and to our nation.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The astounding diversity among the 300 million citizens of the U.S. defies easy labels of red and blue states, Republicans or Democrats. Journalist Chinni and scholar Gimpel draw on two years of research and interviews to offer regional portraits of the U.S. that drill down to a deeper look at political, social, economic, and cultural perspectives than the red and blue labels. Using data from the nation’s 3,141 counties to get a flavor of local perspectives, they looked at typical demographics of race, education, income, religion, and politics and identified 12 different community types based on “common experiences and shared realities.” Their categories: boomtowns, campus and careers, emptying nests, Evangelical epicenters, immigration nation, industrial metropolis, military bastions, minority central, monied burbs, Mormon outposts, service-worker centers, and tractor country. The first part of the book examines the characteristics of each type of county, while the second compares the types and how their characteristics drive economics, politics, and culture. The authors’ data is almost as fascinating as their conversations with people living within the defined regions. --Vanessa Bush


"Brings a fascinating insight into what makes Americans different these days." — The Miami Herald

Product Details

  • File Size: 6311 KB
  • Print Length: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (October 4, 2011)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0052RDI78
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #334,028 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compromised by printing defects October 10, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This terrific work is compromised by the lack of maps ... the lack of maps in sufficient size to be readable ... and the lack of maps in color. Contrary to the book jacket, the internal county-by-county maps are reduced in size and printed in varying shades of black-and-white, making them almost illegible to the reader. Trying to depict data graphically on 5,000+ counties is a challenge anyway; reducing maps to half-page size in various gray halftones is frustrating to the reader. The cheap paper stock used in the production of this book further compromises the already-muddy look of the various maps, charts, and graphs. This is an example of a fine work compromised by poor design.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beyond red and blue...finally. October 5, 2010
Given the current political climate - where pundits and cultural forecasters are spending much of their time attempting to read the unreadable tea leaves - Our Patchwork Nation is a welcome and wholly inventive piece of work. Chinni's opening concept is simple. The U.S. is far too complicated to be reduced to red states and blue states (with apologies to all those cable news stations who have already invested in their markers for the next election round).

But don't confuse Our Patchwork Nation with a dull treatise or dry bit of academic analysis - Chinni is a fantastic writer with a gift for narrative. The 12 community types developed by the project are introduced with the kind of illustrative, long-form journalism we don't see enough of anymore. More than that, there are no heroes or villains offered in the book, no easy answers or clean solutions. Our Patchwork Nation isn't out to tell us what to just asks that we do.

It's found a welcome place on my bookshelf.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid 4.5 Stars August 2, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
This is an excellent book. The authors present a unique analysis of data. I would lower the rating slightly just because it could have been even greater if they had widened the scope of the data considered.

In reading this book, you get a clear picture of where American society is at the moment. The authors explain what defines the differences and conflicts we face.

Where their analysis is lacking relates to at least two factors.

First, their chapter on culture doesn't go very deep. The cultures of these comunities have formed over centuries. They have their origins in the cultures of the British isles and the European continent. The differences are vast between the Scots-Irish culture of the American South and the Northern European culture of the American North. If you want a fuller understanding, I'd recommend supplementing your reading with two other excellent books:

Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History)
By David Hackett Fischer

American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America
By Colin Woodard

In this respect, there is another interesting book to consider that helps understand the differences between the North and South:

Normans and Saxons: Southern Race Mythology and the Intellectual History of the American Civil War (Southern Literary Studies)
By Ritchie Devon Watson Jr.

Second, the socioeconomic angle seemed even more deficient.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Counting the Counties August 16, 2012
Books such as "Our Patchwork Nation" delve into more detailed information about the diversity of US Americans and why they do what they do. They go beyond the examination of the red and blue States model used to explain the political preferences of US voters, beyond the regional differences which define many of our preferences, beyond the ethnic diversity which we often used to do the same. Chinni and Gimpel provide a new model that examines the USA, county by county, largely in terms of the economic and political behavior of each. This gives us a far more granular and complex, but also more insightful view of US demographics.
The book is both timely and contextual. It gives us a picture of the cultures of the USA in what the authors describe as " The Great Recession," in the lead up to the presidential elections later this year. If we understand culture as the survival and success discourse which people in a particular group create, share, and perpetuate, this is a book about culture despite its heavy emphasis on economics and politics. The down side is that its data will quickly become dated; on the other hand, the assemblage of such data can provide a launching pad and a comparative baseline for future research and observation.
Every model requires some reductionism, simplification to a certain degree, of the complexity with which reality confronts us. A model is a way of looking at and understanding things that inevitably walks the tightrope between fragmentation and oversimplification. The menu is not the meal, but by reading it and glancing about to see what the diners at other tables are being served, and consulting our own tastes, we are able to make a somewhat informed choice about what to order.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars good but not great
Decent premise and well researched. Thought the anecdotal evidence was thin at times. Think they could've gotten by with less categories, but like the idea is the county as the... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Andrew Nelson Gregory
5.0 out of 5 stars From Many Are One
A wonderful look at how our country is laid out, NOT by the "numbers", but by the socio-geographic areas where we live. It was very readable, and gives food for thought.
Published 10 months ago by Gloria F. Green
5.0 out of 5 stars How are we different? And Why?
if you've ever traveled around the United States and wondered, "How did this area become so different from the one I live in?" This book explains. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Sandra L Bailey
4.0 out of 5 stars no more simplified "red state," "blue state" understanding
Changes the reader's simple thinking about red states and blue states (and assumptions therein) for good. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Jill Darley-Vanis
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
I read this book with interest though there were places in the book where it seemed to be a bit un-objective.
but it was a nice way to start looking at society in the US. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Penny Wyatt
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insight
Reads easily even though there are statics & data. Gave insight into how the nation votes. Passed the book onto others to enjoy.
Published 16 months ago by Jayne Pivovar
4.0 out of 5 stars County-based Analysis
Similar to the Nine Nations of North America (Garreau, 1981), but a county-based update. Explains much of what is happening across the US. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Scott M. Kruse
4.0 out of 5 stars Great but left out a vital, non-voting, community
Good but left out Pornovilles, like Hollywood, California...Irvine too....and Santa Barbara....downtown....Downtown Santa Barbara is chock full of scantily clad wiener wanters
Published 17 months ago by Indigenous wise man
1.0 out of 5 stars School book required read. ugh
I am not one for statistics and boring numbers. This was a great book if you have trouble falling asleep... did the trick every time...
Published 19 months ago by Leslie
4.0 out of 5 stars Good reference book
My wife keeps referring to the types of community that surround us plus all the cities and towns we visit. Good perspectives and historical data. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Ricardo Alonso Jr.
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More About the Author

Dante Chinni is the director of the Patchwork Nation project, a Knight Foundation-funded journalism collaboration that studies politics, socio-economics and culture in a time of change. Chinni's first book "Our Patchwork Nation" from Gotham, an imprint of Penguin, was published October 1, 2010.

Based in Washington, D.C., Chinni has been covering politics and the media for more than a decade. He has worked as senior associate at the Project for Excellence in Journalism and has written for publications including The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, and The Washington Post Magazine. A native of Detroit and a graduate of Michigan State University, he lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, Christina, and their two children.


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