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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  810 ratings  ·  206 reviews

“To truly understand the United States, one must understand The Not-Quite States of America.” —Mark Stein, best-selling author of How the States Got Their Shapes

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and… some other stuff. The U.S. territories—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and their 4 million people are l
Kindle Edition, 323 pages
Published February 14th 2017 by W. W. Norton & Company
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Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
(3.5) If you’ve ever wondered what the deal is with America’s overseas territories – the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico – this is the book for you. Most of the not-quite-but-basically-colonies came under American rule during a period of conscious expansionism at the turn of the nineteenth century and served as strategic military sites (especially Guam), but now come in for the government’s “benign neglect.” Mack mixes together jaunty on-t ...more
Jan 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is part travelogue, part history book, and part rally cry.

Doug Mack considered himself very knowledgeable about all things U.S.A. It wasn't until his wife started collecting state quarters that he realized he was vastly ignorant of the territories. He decides to travel to each of them, interacting with the people, participating in some of their cultural festivities, and research their history before and after they became colonies--for even the author agrees that is what we are--of the

Entertaining, enlightening, compulsively readable. A must read for anyone interested in unique histories, uncanny Americana trivia, culture melting pots, and/or political hoopla in the far reaches of America territories and "Far-Flung Outposts."

I knew we had these territories: Guam, Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands of the United States (not to be confused with the British Virgin Islands), American Samoa, and the Northern Mariana Islands - though I couldn't name all the individual is
Jill Hutchinson
Been to Guam lately? Or how about the Northern Mariana Islands? If you have, you are still in the United States......well, sort of. These American territories, along with others scattered around the globe are a result of two things; the Manifest Destiny movement in the US at the turn of the 20th century and WWII. Although the US was not Empire driven, these lands became the "faux" Empire and have some of the same laws and benefits of living in the 50 states. But the Constitution didn't necessar ...more
Sam Sattler
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: travel, history
Doug Mack's The Not-Quite States of America (subtitled: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA) will be a reminder to some that not all of America's citizens live in one of the country's fifty states. To other, perhaps younger, readers, the book will serve as a startling revelation of that same fact because, once a hot topic in the United States, the several territories and possessions still held by the U.S. seldom enter into the public conversation these days. S ...more
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
3.5 stars

A book about America’s territories: part travelogue, part history, part investigation of the territories’ political status, this is a lightweight, readable introduction to a complicated topic. Doug Mack takes readers along on his trip through the territories: beginning in the U.S. Virgin Islands, then traveling to American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific, and ending with a trip to Puerto Rico. He even makes a stop in the Marshall Islands and briefly discusses
This wasn’t exactly what I hoped for — some descriptions of the “I went here, and it was very pretty, and I ate a food and met a person” variety, with none of the humor or richness I want from travel essays. However, as a source of information, this book was embarrassingly useful. It turns out I don’t — or at least didn’t — know very much about the US territories.

I didn’t know, for example, that if you’re born in American Samoa to American Samoans, you aren’t necessarily an American citizen. Yo
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really between three and four stars, but rounding up for the effort.

Great premise, with a load of kudos to the author for following up with the idea! However, I wasn't too impressed early on when he stated that he had "no idea" there were American territories, in spite of his background as an "international journalist" and history student at university, until he came across their bicentennial quarters. Really? Did he think the U. S. Virgin Islands was an independent country?

The first section on
Karen Germain
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank You to W.W. Norton & Company for providing me with an advanced copy of Doug Mack's The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA, in exchange for an honest review.

PLOT- Doug Mack's The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA, is part travelogue and part history lesson. Mack travels to Puerto Rico, The U.S. Virgin Islands, America Samoa, The Northern Mariana Islands, and G
This is a book Donald Trump should probably read. By now, he's figured out that Puerto Rico is actually part of the United States, even if he thinks it's surrounded by "Big water. Ocean water." But does he know about the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands?

Doug Mack was all like "What is THE DEAL with these islands?" Visiting each of the five populated territories (which are basically colonies, even though we don't like to call them that, because colonial
Elaine Ruth Boe
I hadn't given much thought to the US territories before coming across this title. I chose it in order to educate myself a bit. And this book was informative. I learned that there are 5 US territories, but they all have different levels of affiliation with the US, usually a contentious and oft-debated affiliation. The US hasn't treated the territories well. I don't think Americans like to think of themselves today as colonizers, but that's basically what we've done. We have an empire, and we're ...more
Helen Marquis
Aug 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating look into the outlying fringes of the US Empire - islands they own but which aren't really part of the States structure - you don't go through passport control to get there if you're traveling from within the US, but the locals have little or no representation in Washington.
Mack takes the reader on a journey from the BMVI to American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands, exploring these American outposts and their mixture of traditional cultures with an America
May 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Not-Quite States of America
Author: Doug Mack
Publisher: W. W. Norton and Company
Published In: New York, NY; London, England
Date: 2017
Pgs: 306


50 states, et al.

American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S.Virgin Islands...4 million people who fly the American flag, baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, but, not statehood. History, independence, statehood, the status quo, the nature of emp
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, us-history
The Jones Act. The Insular Cases. Unincorporated Territories. These once obscure terms entered the daily conversation after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. No longer were the territories (or at least two of them) out of sight and out of mind. For a few weeks, they were front and center.

Also front and center were the obstacles that their political status posed to both local and federal recovery efforts. Among these obstacles was the US government itself. Only wee
Apr 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Plucked this off the new book shelf at the library, hoping to learn more about the US territories. Interesting information, some of which I'd heard before, but also new commentary, such as on page 40: "...the Affordable Care Act essentially forgot about the territories." Why does this not surprise me?
Not sure why Mack only visited St Thomas and St Croix, when IMAO St John is the most pristine of the VI? So I'll throw in my two cents, for what it's worth. Having owned property and spent an inordi
Ken Feucht
Nov 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book tells the history of our American holding a overseas in the Carribbean and the South Pacific. People who are by all rights American but compete on their own Olympic teams. People whose existential quandary is "Do we join the US, it do we leave it?" and come to the conclusion that they are happy just being sort of forgotten and left alone.

part travelogue, part history lesson, Doug Mack takes you to those places you've sort of heard of, and also the Northern Marianas Islands to show how
An interesting theme: Travel to the US possessions that are not states. Lots of stories, interesting characters, history, culture, place descriptions and musings by the author. The final chapter was weak (the author's opinion about what the future status of there territories "ought" to be), but overall I enjoyed the book and learned a lot about the places covered.
Lindsey Greto
Oct 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Wow - I knew nothing about the US territories. This is a super important read, even more so with all the post hurricane awfulness in Puerto Rico. Helps put it into context for sure. Highly recommended.
The U.S. territories are far-flung, fascinating, and perplexing. They are also, in the words of Doug Mack, "the most important domestic-policy issue Americans aren't talking about, precisely because we don't think of them as a domestic-policy issue at all" (253).

I learned so much from this book. Part travelogue, part history, part deep dive into the territories' legal/political status, The Not-Quite States of America is a great introduction to parts of America that most Americans know very littl
Excellent book about the inhabited US territories.

There are 5 US territories: US Virgin Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa. Persons born in these areas are US citizens by birth except for those born on American Samoa who are US Nationals but are not citizens until they go through the naturalization process. This is because they are Unorganized as opposed to Organized territory.

Does the US Constitution include activities and persons in the territories? Yes
I really struggled with this book. Really, really struggled. I hate to review it poorly--Doug Mack seems like a nice, if exceedingly boring guy. He took a concept I was wildly excited about (learn more about the territories! discuss issues of justice pertaining to their tenuous role in the United States' government. Learn more about far away places and cultures and food!) and just made it completely un-captivating. I read this on and off over 6 months or so. I kept forcing myself to go back to i ...more
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Received an ARV via NetGalley

This book is about the United States Territories/Commonwealths and is a combination of travelogue, history, cultural information, and the difference in their legal rights from mainland U.S. The territories are Virgin Islands of the United States (4 Islands), American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico. It is not really a travel guide, but he does mention where he visits and eats. He doesn’t say who has the best local cuisine in each location, but
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
I was already looking forward to Doug Mack's new book since I had enjoyed his first, Europe on Five Wrong Turns A Day, about his travels in Europe using the fifty year old guidebook his mother used on her youthful trip abroad in the 1960s. The Not-Quite States of America was not-quite what I expected -- it was a bit more serious than the first book although it had its humorous moments. This one reminded me of Sarah Vowell and her American history treks.

Mack checks out the American Territories in
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The average American likely never gives any thought to the lands or peoples that comprise the U.S. territories. Many Americans were shocked (and some in denial) after the 2017 Hurricane Maria disaster to learn that Puerto Ricans are in fact American citizens. Local author Doug Mack, realizing that he knew next to nothing about places like American Samoa, Guam or The Northern Mariana Islands, despite them being American soil, set out on a mission to visit and find out more about these territories ...more
Rod Brown
This book is not quite what I wanted, but I'm glad I read it. While I wasn't looking for an academic treatment, this history/travelogue mash-up is just a little too slight to give me all the information I want about the U.S. territories and possessions. It's great that the writer actually visited the places to see how they are faring today, but I think he gives too much weight to his time spent with a few colorful individuals in each place. I'm not a fan of travel writing, but the little bit of ...more
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
A really interesting look at the non states that make up the US. This started when the author's wife found a territory quarter and ended with him traveling to the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Marinaras, Puerto Rico and beyond. He explored the different cultures, governments, histories and treaties that brought these parcels of land into America, yet how they weren't really American in the same way as those of us who live in the States. The varying histories and court cas ...more
I've really enjoyed this book! The author visited all of those U.S. territories that most of us know nothing about including Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and really gets a feel for the culture, the problems, the history, and everything else you could ever want to know about these places that are part of America, and yet not quite. I highly recommend if you're looking for a good book about travel.
Brent Burch
Jan 31, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humor, non-fiction
This book starts with the author asking a basic question, "What's the deal with all the territories the United States still has under it's possession?" Trust me, it's a fascinating look at life on some the most remote outposts left under United States jurisdiction. The author visits each territory to get a sense of what it's like to live so far removed from the US, yet still be tied to it. Definite recommend!
Kevin Keating
I liked this book because of the subject matter but there were a lot of times it kinda dragged on. It was a travelogue of trips Doug Mack took to explore the territories and I think he did an OK job, but it just wasn't too exciting. A lot about drinks and bars and he met some cool people I guess. He did have some good analysis of whether these areas should remain status quo or reach for more representation.
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a breezy, fun(ish) travelogue mixed with an easily digestible history of America's colonial empire (minus the Philippines, which are no longer ours) from their annexation to the present day. Mack's details how America's treatment has evolved from imperial exploitation to (mostly) benign neglect. The book, alas, was written before hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and thus doesn't cover that horrifying example of benign neglect turning into criminal negligence.
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