Wildland: The Making of America’s Fury

Farrar. Sept. 2021. 480p. ISBN 9780374286675. $30. POL SCI
New Yorker writer Osnos (Age of Ambition) uses the metaphor of “wildland” (a firefighting term for tinder-ready territory) to describe the buildup of economic, political, and social resentments that ignited three disparate communities where he has lived—Greenwich, CT; Clarksburg, WV; and Chicago—between 9/11/01 and the Capitol Insurrection of 1/6/21. In a personal, somewhat autobiographical account intended for concerned Americans, Osnos considers the dissimilitude among residents, which he memorably presents in vignettes illustrating differences in credulousness (of the media and politicians); feelings of safety; and expectations of intergenerational mobility and the American Dream. The author dissects the widening socioeconomic chasms between Greenwich (with its several hedge funds and financial services firms), the economically declining Clarksburg (which is navigating the opioid epidemic), and Chicago (whose neighborhoods are alternately experiencing blight or gentrification). Osnos relies on extensive research in social sciences and history, archival records, local newspaper articles, and numerous interviews.
VERDICT This cogently written book is a useful review of intertwined events in the early 21st-century United States.
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