17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
I'm just not cool enough,
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This review is from: United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement (Paperback)
Instead of reading as a "Guide," The United States of Americana reads more like a Who's Who reference list of where you should be shopping and what music to listen to if you want to jump on the new American roots movement bandwagon. Many chapters (most notably the clothes, leather working, and part of the food, and music sections) is a list of "cool" young hipsters "doing their thing". Reading it, I feel less guided and more pushed (with their blogs and websites listed so you can go check them out).
Lack of Gender
While I thoroughly enjoyed reading about men's facial hair, the different types of mustaches (really!), the origins of each liquor, and almost every sidebar, I was disappointed to see there was little, if no, female influence on any of these topics. Sure, knitting and crafts scream "the woman's job," but regarding clothes, grooming, leather work, and even music, historical influences and subsequent revelations were male-oriented. Where are the women's trends? Hats, fascinators and headpieces are all making enormous resurgences in women's fashion; it would have fit nicely between straight razors and bowler hats. It would have been nice to read how today's movement is affecting the "other" gender, since I consider myself a woman participating in this new American roots movement. Gender's not even mentioned facetiously until the crafts chapter. Mentioning Martha Stewart doesn't count, and boiling women down to crafts and burlesque is predictable.
It is clear that Reighley is a music lover. The passion (albeit, a bit of snootiness) that shines through in his chapter "Songs of Pioneers" is obvious. But it leaks a little into other chapters, such as "Design and Décor." Why bring up Jon Langford (a whole section on him) and the American music community AGAIN, in the Design and Décor chapter? Completely off topic! Could have omitted those 2 pages entirely - or plopped them in the music chapter.
In addition to the catchy style of writing, I like being able to put names like Velocipede and Dirigible with their odd object counterparts. Some parts of the book were incredibly informative and fun to read: topics such as mustache variations, as mentioned before, types of liquors, early American musicians, and types of fibrous crafts. Honestly, the epilogue was one of the best parts of the book - I just wish Reighley had imparted more of that sincerity and personal touch to the rest of the book.
Bottom Line: I'm Just Not Cool Enough
The overall tone of the book, while well written, witty and fun to read, is a bit snobbish. I feel like I'm just not cool enough to read this book or take part in this movement - even though I'm 26, lived in Brooklyn for 8 years, and am a dirt-broke, starving artist. Furthermore, I keep chickens, have a garden, can and preserve food... and yet I felt these topics were lacking when it came to the "United States of Americana." Where is the part about keeping a garden in the "Food" chapter? And how are we not talking about being green, conserving resources, leaning more towards self-sufficiency and sustainability as a motivator in this new roots movement? I'd hedge my bets that the state of the economy is what is inadvertently encouraging a lot of young folks (my generation specifically) to this sort of lifestyle, in conjunction with a desire to tread lighter on the planet. So why do I feel like this movement is only for the hip and the wealthy?
Overall, a nice, easy read, but I feel like it lacked in the true heart and soul of the movement...every day, normal people trying to live simpler lives.
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Initial post: Feb 15, 2014 2:38:51 PM PST
Stacy DeLoe says:
I'm about halfway through the book (and trying not to leave a review until I'm done) and your review makes me feel so much better. It's so good to know that it's not just me having the same reaction to the book. While I have been known to enjoy reading a book where the intended audience is primarily men (like The Affected Provincial's Companion), it is very disappointing that a book that seemed to be so broad is actually rather narrow.
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