Book Quote:

“I think the preservation of historic sites is important, where those sites represent events in history overlooked or minimized in the orthodox telling of history or where they look at a historical event from a different point of view. … I remember how surprised and gladdened I was to visit a small town in western Massachusetts and find a memorial to the soldiers of World War I that was not the usual paean to military heroism but a bitter comment on the futility of war. — quoted from Howard Zinn”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Poornima Apte (MAY 25, 2009)

Not too long ago, a lady called the offices of The Nation and said she was “stuck” in Abbeyville, Louisiana. “I want to move, but I want to move to somewhere where I can see a Democrat before I die,” she said. This phone call was the catalyst for The Nation. Guide to the Nation—a fun and interesting if haphazard compilation of left-leaning hot spots, organizations and businesses around the country.

In the introduction, Victor Navasky and Katrina Vanden Heuvel point out that the compilation is “quirky and eclectic” and it certainly is. There are listings for left-leaning media organizations, printing presses, publishing houses, even summer camps. There are organic farms, green restaurants and retail establishments. Heuvel is editor and publisher of The Nation while Navasky is former editor and publisher emeritus of the magazine.

The most interesting set of listings is the virtual Left Heritage Trail which starts all the way east from New England and moves along to the West coast. Key points covered include the Black Heritage Trail in Boston, the Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Hills near Chicago, the Bob Dylan home in Minnesota, Woody Guthrie’s home in Oklahoma, and dozens more points soaked in the history of the Left. This subset of listings is the book’s best accomplishment.

Also included, and which many liberals will find useful, are many policy and advocacy organizations. Besides the famous, there are many others listed and these are very definitely worth a look. These include the Center for American Progress lead by John Podesta and the Center for the Study of Responsive Law instituted by Ralph Nader. Anti-war organizations listed include Military families Speak Out and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

While the compilation is really informative and the idea for the project is really cool, there are a few problems with it. It feels like it was a project put together and rushed through to coincide with the start of the Obama presidency. The listings are not comprehensive (the editors have included this disclaimer in the beginning). Some listings like the hemp pretzels made in Lancaster, PA, (yes, pretzels made out of hemp) seem to have been tossed in their own category (this one was under ‘Pretzels’) because someone probably found these and thought they would be good to include.

At the very beginning, Navasky and Heuvel say that the book is meant to help people like the caller who was stuck in Louisiana and was looking for guidance. “This book is for you. People of the left-liberal-radical persuasion (The kind of people who read The Nation) who find themselves in some red state backwater hungering for kindred spirits, for community, for folks who’ll help them organize an antiwar rally or a fund-raiser or a peace march or a discussion group or a food co-op,” they write. To that end, the compilation falls somewhat short of this objective. It might have helped for one thing, to have at least the restaurants, bars, and organic farms to be sorted by state. That way if you are stuck in “some red state backwater” you can find the information easily. One suspects that the editors chose not to do this because for all the promise of covering all states equally, most of the listings are in blue states—like California, Illinois and New York. This is probably because some of the listings came from readers of the Nation and were therefore inherently skewed blue in the first place.

Well, okay, Wyoming has one solitary listing—Harvest Café in Jackson. It’s a place that sells organic salads and stacks New Age magazines, according to the compilation. Even in Cheney country, there is one blue place (this is according to the compilation—there might be more). “If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere,” the listing blurb says. But really, if you have to drive a hundred miles to get there, it kind of takes away the fun, doesn’t it? Or maybe a true leftie out in Cheney country will be desperate enough to make the hike.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 5 readers
PUBLISHER: Vintage (January 6, 2009)
REVIEWER: Poornima Apte
AMAZON PAGE: The Nation. Guide to the Nation
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Richard Lingeman

Blogs about Richard Lingeman

EXTRAS: Reading Guide and or Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Along the same vein…

Dude, Where’s My Country? by Michael Moore

The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner


May 25, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Humorous, Non-fiction, United States, y Award Winning Author

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