Synopses & Reviews
A vivid, surprising portrait of the civic and economic reinvention taking place in America, town by town and generally out of view of the national media. A realistically positive and provocative view of the country between its coasts.
For the last five years, James and Deborah Fallows have been traveling across America in a single-engine prop airplane. Visiting dozens of towns, they have met hundreds of civic leaders, workers, immigrants, educators, environmentalists, artists, public servants, librarians, business people, city planners, students, and entrepreneurs to take the pulse and understand the prospects of places that usually draw notice only after a disaster or during a political campaign.
The America they saw is acutely conscious of its problems — from economic dislocation to the opioid scourge — but it is also crafting solutions, with a practical-minded determination at dramatic odds with the bitter paralysis of national politics. At times of dysfunction on a national level, reform possibilities have often arisen from the local level. The Fallowses describe America in the middle of one of these creative waves. Their view of the country is as complex and contradictory as America itself, but it also reflects the energy, the generosity and compassion, the dreams, and the determination of many who are in the midst of making things better. Our Towns is the story of their journey — and an account of a country busy remaking itself.
“Our Towns will become a classic, joining the ranks of American odysseys from De Tocqueville to Dos Passos. The landscape unfurls beneath us; the language of different regions echoes in our ears. Most important, this book is a tonic for what ails us as a nation, a captivating story of energy and renewal across the land.” Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America
“In the tradition of John Steinbeck and Studs Terkel, the Fallows have crisscrossed the country in search of the extraordinary strength and character of ordinary people and places. What they’ve found — in towns we know and others off the beaten path — should give us all great hope for the future.” California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.
“An illuminating trip through ‘parts of the country generally missed by the media spotlight’….Writing with lively curiosity and open minds, the couple have created textured portraits of 29 American cities, from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Allentown, Pennsylvania, and Eastport, Maine, to Redlands, California....A well-reported, optimistic portrait of America’s future.” Kirkus Reviews
“An eye-opening, keenly optimistic reminder of the strength of America’s vital center.” Publishers Weekly
About the Author
James Fallows has been a national correspondent for The Atlantic for more than35 years, reporting from China, Japan, Southeast Asia, Europe, and across the United States. He is the author of 11 previous books. His work has also appeared in many other magazines and as public radio commentaries since the 1980s. He has won a National Book Award and a National Magazine Award. For two years he was President Jimmy Carter’s chief speechwriter.
Deborah Fallows is a linguist and writer who holds a PhD in theoretical linguistics and is the author of two previous books. She has written for The Atlantic, National Geographic, Slate, The New York Times, and The Washington Monthly, and has worked at the Pew Research Center, Oxygen Media, and Georgetown University. She and her husband have two sons and four grandchildren.
James Fallows, Deborah Fallows on PowellsBooks.Blog
In the summer of 2009, we returned from nearly four years of living and working in China to an America that was in recession, only beginning to claw its way out. The narrative we heard and read about in the national media was one of despair, sometimes anger, and a sense of helplessness that marked a different, more troubled era for the country....