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Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the "Real" America Hardcover – September 30, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham; First Edition, 1st Printing edition (September 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1592405738
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592405732
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #743,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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


"[Our Patchwork Nation] is a captivating and at times surprising analysis, both rigorous and accessible, which suggests that while the country as a whole is going through a period of economic restructuring and technological transformation, how each region experiences these changes creates in effect 12 different realities"
-Kirkus Reviews

"Our Patchwork Nation is a compelling, thought-provoking book, and a must-read for anyone trying to make sense of our country's complex political and cultural dynamic. I highly recommend this book."
-Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class and Director of the Martin Prosperity Institute, University of Toronto

"A great piece of work. I don't see how every political writer in the country with any sense wouldn't buy this book."
-Bill Kovack, co-author of The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and The Public Should Expect

"How many books challenge you to think differently about your town, your country, yourself? Hold tight for this exuberant ride into our Patchwork Nation, where new ideas and fresh insights await around the next bend. This book should come with a traveler's advisory: Leave your assumptions at home."
-Steve Luxenberg, author of Annie's Ghosts: A Journey Into a Family Secret and Washington Post associate editor

"Tired of seeing America painted in only two colors? Our Patchwork Nation is a wonderful book that takes us way beyond red and blue -- while also explaining the social, regional and economic roots of our partisan and ideological color wars. No matter what your politics are, you are guaranteed great fun by Dante Chinni and Jim Gimpel's glorious charts and grafs (as well their brisk, well-written text). And you will be challenged to figure out where you fit into their patchwork, and what their crazy quilt means for the future of our country."
-E. J. Dionne Jr., author of Why Americans Hate Politics and Souled Out.

Customer Reviews

A great approach and step in the right direction of addressing a gap in how we vote and thus divide our nation.
T. R. Farley
I found this book very helpful in figuring out what's happening to this country, and maybe finding a little room for hope that the current turmoil will pass.
The book is well written, easy to read and filled with interesting interviews from influential people in each of the community types.
Gail Allen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 55 people found the following review helpful By David C. Klinger on 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 By TCA on October 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover
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 think...it just asks that we do.

It's found a welcome place on my bookshelf.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Benjamin D. Steele on 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.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By George F. Simons on August 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
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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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.