American Stories: Tales of Hope and Anger by Michael Brissenden
ABC TV’s Michael Brissenden has written a sharply observed and hugely entertaining collection of essays on contemporary American life.
He covers the expected turf – healthcare, the war on drugs, asylum seekers, race relations – but delivers much more than that. He explores the release of Canadian grey wolves into Yellowstone National Park, an act of conservation by the Fisheries and Wildlife Service that informs the cultural renewal of the Nez Perce Indians in Oregon.
In Detroit we move beyond the first generation of unionised autoworkers to suffer income depreciation to find artists embracing the vast derelict spaces, igniting the potential of an arts-based urban renewal.
Brissenden moves easily from Los Angeles to Mexico, Miami to Cuba, always with an eye for the contested space, be it land, ideology or identity. The chapters segue neatly to provide both the hint of a narrative and an insight into the inquisitive mindset of a foreign correspondent.
We also get a good sense of the compromised natures of President Barack Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney, of their limitations and failures, and of America’s deterioration into a polemic stalemate.
Honest, but not without hope, Brissenden gives us an excellent snapshot of contemporary America.
Robbie Egan is the Manager at Readings Carlton
Review first published in *Bookseller+Publisher*