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The Best American Travel Writing 2017 (The Best American Series ®) Paperback – October 3, 2017
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Too many of the 22 essays were marred by predictable political opinion. Can't we get some insight into other cultures without having to view everything through the trite philosophies of our current intelligentsia? The few that didn't contain the usual triteness informed us of things such as that GPS can get you lost. Really? That is the depth of thought stimulated by the supposedly mind-expanding act of travel?
If you travel for a breath of fresh air and to get away from our usual preconceptions you will need to find a different volume.
I enjoyed most of the pieces in the 2017 edition of Best American Travel Writing, and I found myself rethinking what travel writing is. Some of my favorite articles in this edition were David Kushner's Land of the Lost, about how it is possible even with GPS to lose your way, Stephanie Elizondo Griest's Chiefing in Cherokee about phony vs. authentic cultural heritage, Elif Batuman's Cover Story about her dilemma over whether to wear a headscarf in Turkey or not, and Kathryn Schulz's stunning Citizen Khan, about the all-American experiences of an Afghan immigrant to Wyoming in the early 20th century.
This collection may not get you planning your next luxury cruise, but it makes for thoughtful and exciting reading nonetheless.
"Cover Story" deals with a Turkish-American woman visiting Turkey and experiencing friendlier people when she is wearing a black scarf (rather than none at all).
"My Holy Land Vacation" is 26 pages long and details a conservative American woman's views of Israel and its politics.
"Chiefing in Cherokee" is about a visit to Cherokee, NC, a place I visited on a cross-country trip from New Jersey to Arizona in late 2004. I visited for the same reason as the author: to know more about the Cherokee.
"Cliffhanger" is about a 1985 airplane crash in La Paz, Bolivia.
"The Ones Who Left" is an interesting story about a family's vacation to their ancestral Netherlands.
"The Big Leap" is about a new family's vacation to Belize with their new adopted daughter.
"Refugees Hear a Foreign Word: Welcome" is an informative article about Syrian refugees coming to Canada.
"Finding the Forgotten" is about a neglected African-American cemetery in Richmond, VA. There is some history in this story.
"Waiting on a Whale at the end of the World" is about an unsuccessful but well-described whale hunt in northern Alaska.
"Plum Crazy" is about a plumeria convention in Hawaii and one of the wittier articles.
"Land of the Lost" is about a young man flying to Iceland to find himself, only to get lost twice. So much for GPS!
"On the Road" is a philosophical musing of...travel writing. There are other articles here.
In all, there are 22 articles from 14 different sources and all fit Collin's "space and time" criteria. And all are very interesting. I don't have a favorite in this bunch. I also appreciate having well-written articles from women as well as men, and stories are about single people, families, young and old on the move.
I particularly liked "My Holy Land Vacation," which is snarky but insightful about Evangelical's views toward Israel. I think the author did a good job of bring critical - but also of himself.
"My Father's House," about a journey to Nigeria, was funny, sad and had a powerful and gentle conclusion.
"No Amount of Traffic..." is pretty funny - about an ill-fated family camping trip. Ugh, why camp - seriously!
"Land of the Lost" is amusing and a good criticism of today's "famous for a minute" culture, without really meaning to be.
My complaints are that 11 of 22 selections came from Outside, The New Yorker or the NY Times, so it has a vibe to it. I mean, I guess they are the "best," and it is always an editor's personality that creates a collection, but I feel like the worldview was a little limited. And it does have a left-leaning vibe too, what with the election and all - I'm personally totally on board with that, but some readers might not feel this directed toward them, and they'd be right.
That aside, these selections are all strong, and even the ones that I didn't care for, I understand why they were selected.