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Our Patchwork Nation: The Surprising Truth About the "Real" America Paperback – October 4, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Avery; 59123rd edition (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159240670X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1592406708
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #124,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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