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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier

With the picture of a gleaming Airstream motorhome on the cover of the book I had initially expected it to be about author Hampton Sides’ travels across America; one big road trip of sorts. Instead, Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier, are a collection of his essays about what make the United States great. And it’s not just specific places, as I had assumed by the cover, but instead about the people, events and ideas that have helped shape this land to what it is over the last few decades.
Initially I was turned off by the book as it wasn’t what I had expected. But as I came to the realization that I judged the book by the cover I started to open up to it. I found the writing of Hampton Sides difficult to turn away from, and almost mesmerizing at times. His stories are incredibly well written and even incredibly emotion-evoking at times. I found myself struggling through it at times as I need to put the book down to take a break as I was being overwhelmed by a tale he was relaying.
Whether the story be about be about actor and activist Russell Means or about a great big bike rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, Americana is all about what makes this place great. But sometimes Sides goes outside the lines and overseas to what Americans have done or are doing in different parts of the world. This section is appropriately titled “Americans Abroad,” and takes readers to Morocco, Mexico, the West Bank and the Philippines.
But it’s not all about a certains rah-rah cheerleader sense either as the stories he tells also cover murder and prejudices in the country. In doing so I believe Sides gives and unwashed and unapologetic view of what this country is truly like in many respects. He gives the bad with the good and doesn’t seem to turn away from any of it in telling a great and true story of the people and places.
Sides also devotes one of the seven sections of the book to “America, Post 9/11.” I found it difficult reliving some of the instances following the attacks in the east, especially considering what recently happened on a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, but also believe it’s an important and interesting part of the book. It’s one that none of us should forget, no matter in what part of the world we reside, and believe his inclusion of it shows a fair perspective of how Americans may now view the world around us.
Americana: Dispatches from the New Frontier is a book that I highly recommend and am glad I picked up. Initially it may not have been what I expected, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless and believe it’s a great novel in relation to travel as it helps portray who we as a country really are and want to be – flaws and all.
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