Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America (Hardcover)
James Fallows a correspondent for The Atlantic magazine along with Deborah Fallows new book, Our Towns, is a compelling look at local communities and how they function--for better or worse--in a time of national political dysfunction.
Over the course of 5 years, in a single engine prop plane, the authors visited about 30 cities across the country. From Fresno, CA to Ajo, AZ; from Holland, Michigan to Greenville, SC; from Duluth MN to Garden and Dodge City, KS, the two touched down on local landing strips in the vast geography of fly over country. I was fascinated by the stories of every town the Fallows visited.
After landing in a town the two seasoned journalists got right to work. They visited the local newspaper publisher, the economic centers or Chambers of Commerce. They met with members of local government, and visited the health clubs. In preliminary conversations they asked a key question: “Who made things happen, who are the community leaders and which organizations contribute the most to quality of life.”
The Fallows uncovered factors that allow a city to change, to grow, and to be able to solve their own problems after devastating change to or a stagnant economy, or other destructive factors. They also observed what make a community less likely to recover from disasters and change.
Some of the findings for self determining communities include knowledge of the history of the city, public/private partnerships, a strong library, and a strong parks and public recreation. And when asked about the movers and shakers, the more names on the list, the better.
Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW.— Sarah Bagby
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 itis 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.
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.
"A tonic of a book about the can-do America unready to succumb to rot."—Roger Cohen, The New York Times
"Reminiscent of Charles Kuralt's On The Road with Charles Kuralt, this unique look at the heart of America will bring hope and insight to readers. Highly recommended."—David Miller, Library Journal
“I’ve been waiting for this book for years....Buy this book....This country is more united than divided...and this book will prove it.”—Joe Scarborough, co-host of Morning Joe on MSNBC
“Knowing the Fallows and their work, I assumed this new co-authored book of theirs would be typically savvy, sensitive, articulate and prescient. What I didn't expect was how a record of experiences of current middle American communities, through their lenses, would be such a page turner! I've guessed for many years that real change in this world would be effected by and within small communities--places where people feel connected and capable of impact on some larger scale. Our Towns is a monumental validation of that hypothesis—with real stories and real people, who are really getting things done. James & Deborah—thanks for your journey, your open and honest observations, and helping to shine light for us at the end of many tunnels.” —David Allen, author of Getting Things Done; the Art of Stress-Free Productivity
“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 & 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