Cover image for These United States : original essays by leading American writers on their state within the Union
These United States : original essays by leading American writers on their state within the Union
Leonard, John, 1939-2008.
Publication Information:
New York : Thunder's Mouth Press/Nation Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
xix, 523 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E180 .T47 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In 1922, The Nation launched a series of forty-nine articles by a distinguished group of writers--novelists, journalists, educators, social workers, lawyers, unionists, and maverick intellectuals--each of whom was asked to contemplate his or her state of the union. Their essays were collected and published in a volume: These United States: Portrait of America from the 1920s. In 2002 Nation Books set out to create a contemporary portrait of America with the critic John Leonard as editor. Each contributor was asked to write 2,500 words on his or her state in the union. Every state will be represented, as well as New York City, Long Island, and Northern and Southern California. The results of this ambitious project are now being published together for the first time. Taken as a whole these essays form less a symposium than a remarkably evocative crazy-quilt of styles that reveal the many moods, apprehensions, complexities, and contradictions held within these United States. Some of the 115 confirmed contributors include: Charles Bowden, Arizona; Ana Castillo, Illinois; Jim Harrison, Michigan; Luc Sante, New Jersey; Tony Hillerman, New Mexico; Sherman Alexie, Washington; and Annie Proulx, Wyoming.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Modeled after the 1922 series published in the Nation offering perspectives on the U.S. in 49 articles by distinguished writers, educators, social workers, lawyers, intellectuals, and others, this collection offers an astonishing panorama of how the U.S. has come to be the country it is today. Compared with the original, this current offering reflects less of a jazz than a buzz age. All 50 states are represented, as well as Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. The essays start with Diane McWhorter's observation on Alabama and the irony of transforming its ugly history of resistance to integration to the proud birthplace of the modern civil rights movement. The book ends with Annie Proulx recalling Wyoming's start as the first state to give women suffrage, a clever ploy to lure women to the territory, and its more recent history of sex discrimination. Other contributors include T. D. Allman, Charles Bowden, Rosario Ferre, Nikki Giovanni, William Greider, and Molly Ivins. The collection gives an evocative--both flattering and not so flattering--sense of the numbing sameness spreading across the nation and, at the same time, the underlying and enduring diversity of races, ethnicities, sensibilities, politics, and perspectives of these United States. --Vanessa Bush Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Eighty-one years ago, the Nation published a series of 49 articles on each of the then 48 states and Washington, D.C., that were later collected in two volumes. That book's contributors included notables such as W.E.B. Du Bois (Georgia), Sinclair Lewis (Minnesota) and Willa Cather (Nebraska). Now, Leonard, a noted reviewer, editor and writer (The Last Innocent White Man in America, etc.), has edited an impressive new collection of 55 original essays for this new century. Leonard includes Puerto Rico, and California has two essays (North and South), New York three (New York City, Long Island and Upstate). An impressive host of writers, styles and structures are as diverse as the subjects. Michael Tomasky ponders West Virginia's sense of cultural insularity as a state teetering between North and South; Donald Hall mourns the sudden loss (from natural causes) of New Hampshire's emblem, the Old Man of the Mountain; and Walter Kirn details the severity of Montana's economic privation. The book is organized alphabetically by state, and reading from start to finish entails a series of interesting jumps, e.g., from Georgia to Hawaii or from Colorado to Connecticut. This choice is wise, for it allows each state, and each writer, to stand out. Because the project commenced in 2001, references and reactions to the September 11 attacks are myriad. One of the more poignant of these reflections comes in Frank Conroy's piece on Iowa. He writes, "Iowans may be saddened... but they are not afraid. Not even remotely." (Nov. 15) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In the early 1920s, the Nation asked 49 of the country's leading intellectuals, writers, and activists to write about the "state of their state" for a book, These United States: Portrait of America from the 1920s, that provided a snapshot of the country in the Jazz Age. (One of the 48 states at the time got double treatment.) Now, over 80 years later, the Nation has asked a contemporary group to do the same thing. The new book features an eclectic mix of essays from writers such as Frank Conroy (Iowa), Tony Hillerman (New Mexico), Nikki Giovanni (Tennessee), Molly Ivins (Texas), and Annie Proulx (Wyoming). Most talk about what makes their state special along with its unique challenges and how it relates to the broad country as a whole. In addition to the 50 states, New York City (Marshall Berman), Washington, DC (William Greider), and Puerto Rico (Rosario Ferr?) are represented. Although it includes a brief "About the Contributors" section at the end, the book would have benefited from a concise bio of the person at the beginning of each essay. Nevertheless, this is an innovative book, both informative and entertaining, that provides a unique look at 21st-century America. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.-Robert Flatley, Kutztown Univ., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.