Book Review: “The Real State of America Atlas: Mapping the Myths and Truths of the United States” by Cynthia Enloe and Joni Seager
Two professors, one of geography and one of political science, both specializing in women’s studies, have compiled a ton of data about the American experience, past and present, in The Real State of America Atlas. With colorful easy-to-understand maps, charts, graphs and essays, readers are given a realistic picture of the United States.
Among the surprising things I learned were that the majority of people in the U.S. are Catholic and those most likely to become homeless are “persons in families”.
It is more than an atlas though. Each colorful spread focuses on a different topic, and everything is covered from American Indian reservations to women’s suffrage, pointing to the unfair inequalities that result from a capitalistic society. The authors believe that life in the United States is not what people think it is and provide a sort of alternate history lesson using the atlas approach. While the maps, graphs and charts imply that this is a matter-of-fact warts-and-all look at the country, the essays have their own conclusions and call for a bit more depth.
Overall, it is a good reference on a myriad of topics that points out inequalities in the American experience, but it only taps the surface of the questions it raises. In an interview, the authors said raising questions and sparking discussion is the purpose of the book. This it does, and while the topics could use a bit more examination, it serves as a fascinating teacher for those of us who didn’t major in American History and would not otherwise dig into these topics.