The Real State of America Atlas: Mapping the Myths and Truths of the United States
by Cynthia Enloe and Joni Seager
Penguin Paperback Original / On-Sale: July 26, 2011
“The Real State of America Atlas [delivers] a riveting portrait of an America that doesn’t always live up to its ideals.”—Village Voice
“Where The Real State of America Atlas truly shines is in its demolition of the notion – the enduring fantasy – that America is a land of equal opportunity, a place where boundless bounty awaits anyone who is willing to work hard and play by the rules.”—The Millions
Q&A With Cynthia and Joni:
What was your favorite topic to research for this book? Why?
For Cynthia, it was researching the spread that became “The Road to Suffrage.” She’s been interested for years in how women, step by difficult step, won the vote in the US and in other countries. But this was the first time she’d tried to chart the all obstacles raised, generation by generation, to so many Americans voting: enslaved Americans, Jewish Americans, Native Americans, Chinese Americans, homeless Americans, ex-convict Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, as well as women of all races.
For Joni, it was the several maps on aspects of economic equity, justice, and injustice: poverty, corporate power, income distribution. One of the most paradoxical things about contemporary America is the widely-shared self-perception of Americans as caring, concerned, helping those less fortunate, stacked up against one of the most unequal distribution of wealth in the developed world. Many Americans seem unaware of the structural inequities that shape all aspects of modern life.
How has your academic background informed your research and focus?
Joni is a geographer; Cynthia is a political scientist. But both of us are international in our interests; both of us are feminist analysts who teach and write in the burgeoning field of Women’s Studies. That has been really a boon because Women’s Studies is explicitly cross-national in scope and interdisciplinary in approach – drawing on history, anthropology, public policy, economics, cultural studies. In practice, this meant that for years we each had thought about housing, wages, voting, arms sales, wars, consumerism, jobs, health and the environment. Moreover, as teachers, we each are acutely aware that one can’t help Americans make sense of what is going on here in the US unless one simultaneously reveals the US in a global context.
Going into the presidential election of 2012, what can The Real State of America offer voters?
This atlas provides, we hope, an incentive to speak up in shaping this society – perhaps in the form of voting, perhaps in the form of community activism. And, in deciding how to cast their ballots, we hope this atlas encourages voters to pay attention to whether candidates acknowledge – and directly address – the deep inequalities that still persist among Americans, inequalities deepened by the Great Recession. The myths of the “American Dream” diverge widely from the realities revealed here. It is realities, not myths, not wishful thinking, that provide a sound basis for any voter making smart choices in the voting booth.
About the Book:
Through a combination of colorful graphics, innovative maps, and sharply crafted short essays, THE REAL STATE OF AMERICA ATLAS shows us how we live and how we compare to the rest of the world. These 40 engaging spreads reveal the often surprising realities of contemporary American life: religious affiliations, physical health, employment, distribution of wealth, corporate power, the prison system, education, and military service. These spreads offer an intriguing snapshot of our society as a whole—and prove that geography matters.
About the Authors:
Joni Seager, Professor and Chair of Global Studies at Bentley University in Boston, is a geographer and global policy expert. She has achieved international acclaim for her work in feminist environmental policy analysis, the international status of women, and global political economy.
Cynthia Enloe is Research Professor at Clark University, Worcester, MA. She has lectured throughout the world on feminism, militarization, and globalization, written for Ms. Magazine and the Village Voice and appeared on National Public Radio and the BBC.