Summary and book reviews of The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack

The Not-Quite States of America

Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

by Doug Mack

The Not-Quite States of America by Doug Mack
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  • Published:
    Feb 2017, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Poornima Apte

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Book Summary

An eye-opening journey to the most overlooked parts of America.

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and…some other stuff. Scattered shards in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the not-quite states - American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands - and their 4 million people are often forgotten, even by most Americans. But they're filled with American flags, U.S. post offices, and Little League baseball games. How did these territories come to be part of the United States? What are they like? And why aren't they states?

When Doug Mack realized just how little he knew about the territories, he set off on a globe-hopping quest covering more than 30,000 miles to see them all. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, Mack examines the Founding Fathers' arguments over expansion. He explores Polynesia's outsize influence on American culture, from tiki bars to tattoos, in American Samoa. He tours Guam with members of a military veterans' motorcycle club, who offer personal stories about the territory's role in World War II and its present-day importance for the American military. In the Northern Mariana Islands, he learns about star-guided seafaring from one of the ancient tradition's last practitioners. And everywhere he goes in Puerto Rico, he listens in on the lively debate over political status?independence, statehood, or the status quo.

The Not-Quite States of America is an entertaining account of the territories' place in the USA, and it raises fascinating questions about the nature of empire. As Mack shows, the territories aren't mere footnotes to American history; they are a crucial part of the story.

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In the end, The Not-Quite States of America proves to be an absorbing ride into the history of the United States, regions of the country beyond the “sea to shining sea” narrative that very few Americans know much about. This is Mack’s greatest contribution – to give the territories their just place under the sun. That we get to go along for the turquoise waters and friendly people is icing on the cake.   (Reviewed by Poornima Apte).

Full Review Members Only (689 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Rather than taking an authoritative approach, Mack lets the residents do just as much of the talking and analyzing, making for a strong book sure to spark thought and inspire further research.

Booklist

One will never think about the United States in quite the same way after this enjoyable read.

Library Journal

An informative romp through the country's lesser-explored areas, this book will engage history and political science buffs, along with travelers interested in the complete United States of America.

Kirkus Reviews

An entertaining, informative guidebook to some cool places populated by people to whom attention should be paid.

Author Blurb Andrew Carroll, author of War Letters and Here Is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History
Hilarious and moving ... This book, quite simply, is travel writing at its finest.

Author Blurb Mark Stein, author of How the States Got Their Shapes
To truly understand the United States, one must understand The Not-Quite States of America. Doug Mack opens our eyes to the variety of reasons we need them in this consistently entertaining read.

Author Blurb Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Genius
Funny and engaging, Mack is the perfect guide to these simultaneously strange and familiar places, and the book goes to the heart of a perennial and, these days, urgent question: What does it mean to be American?

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Beyond the Book

The Hui Panalä'au Program

Imagine being sent to a remote island just to populate it so that your country can then call it theirs. The Hui Panalä'au program did just that, as Doug Mack describes in The Not-Quite States of America.

Howland, Baker and JarvisAs Japan became increasingly aggressive to its Pacific neighbors in the 1930s, the United States needed an effective way of keeping Japan's unbridled ambitions in check. It built runways and outposts on Wake Island, Midway Atoll, and Palmyra Atoll, all remote islands in the Pacific. The US also decided to lay claim to three smaller islands, Howland, Baker and Jarvis by first populating them.

The U.S. Navy decided that Hawaiians would be best for this purpose and recruits were signed on from the Kamehameha School for Boys ...

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