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The Not-Quite States of America

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

Doug Mack


List Price: 26.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (2/13/2017)
Paperback (2/27/2018)
Compact Disc (2/14/2017)
MP3 CD (2/14/2017)
Compact Disc (2/14/2017)


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.

Praise For The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA

Throughout [this] deft narrative, Mack presents numerous revealing vignettes of far-flung Yankee civilization. . . . An entertaining, informative guidebook.
— Kirkus Reviews

An informative romp.
— Library Journal

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

A thoughtful assessment of American colonialism. . . . [Mack] explores each territory with an open mind and an open notebook.
— Publishers Weekly

Our fellow Americans living in territories may not have senators or members of Congress to represent them. But they do have Doug Mack’s terrific book to reintroduce us to their unique histories and cultures and to point out just how connected we all really are to the people in these seemingly far-flung places. A fun and fascinating adventure.
— Brady Carlson, author of Dead Presidents

Having ventured 30,000 miles to visit U.S. territories around the world, Doug Mack has embarked on one of the most extraordinary ‘American’ journeys of all time. Hilarious and moving, Mack also tackles serious issues—from the history of slavery in the U.S. Virgin Islands to the role of Guam in World War II to the battles over the sweatshops of Saipan—all while exploring how these not-quite states came to be part of America. This book, quite simply, is travel writing at its finest.
— Andrew Carroll, author of War Letters and Here Is Where: Discovering America’s Great Forgotten History

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.

— Mark Stein, author of How the States Got Their Shapes

Doug Mack, a connoisseur of the offbeat, turns his keen eye to the USA’s forgotten lands, and the result is the Great American Road Trip with a twist. 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?
— Eric Weiner, author of The Geography of Genius

W. W. Norton & Company, 9780393247602, 336pp.

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

About the Author

Doug Mack is the author of Europe on Five Wrong Turns a Day and has written for Travel + Leisure, National Geographic Traveler, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He lives in Minneapolis.