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United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement
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United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement

3.30  ·  Rating details ·  158 ratings  ·  26 reviews
A field guide to the new American Roots movement, United States of Americana is a vivid, fascinating, and comprehensive survey of how and why young urban Americans are finding inspiration in the cultural traditions of an earlier time in many areas of contemporary life. Compiled by Seattle-based writer, DJ, and entertainer Kurt B. Reighley, United States of Americana explor ...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published August 31st 2010 by Harper Perennial (first published August 18th 2010)
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Average rating 3.30  · 
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 ·  158 ratings  ·  26 reviews

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Start your review of United States of Americana: Backyard Chickens, Burlesque Beauties, and Handmade Bitters: A Field Guide to the New American Roots Movement
Overview of modern youth-driven Americana: alt-country, burlesque, drink-mixing, knitting, vinyl records, and some less common topics like taxidermy. The author tries hard to establish why americana, retro-knowledge, and basic craft are important, and manages probably 80% of the time to keep from veering into Marie Antoinette-as-play-farmer-milking-the-freshly-washed-cows territory. I particularly liked the bit about the DJ who spins shellac and wax records on mechanical Edison players, dismissi ...more
Apr 29, 2022 rated it it was ok
Few thoughts about this book:
Time capsule of late aughts hipster culture.

Gentrification handbook

Wow, kinda racist, tbh

Couldn't tell if the book was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek or serious

Super dated (published in 2010, read in 2022)

I picked this book up on a discount shelf in a book store, it was $5 - I definitely paid too much for it.
Bob Redmond
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: americana
Unique and enjoyable, this book is a survey of the contemporary DIY (do-it-yourself) movement in America (with some global threads), all at once a history, reference book, and how-to manual.

In 10 chapters, Reighley cuts a wide swath through sub-sub-cultures including backyard farming, handcrafting, fashion, taxidermy, and circuses.

He's is at his best when either describing the "how" in such subcultures (How to grow a handlebar mustache? How to raise chickens? How to make pickles?), or delving de
Joseph Celes
Great book on American history and the new DIY movement.
Ria Bridges
May 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Ultimately, I can’t deny that this was a very interesting concept for a book, especially with North American’s current mindset and economic factors. More people every day are turning to green alternatives, and looking back on how things used to be done before we became a throwaway society. The author clearly did a large amount of research before putting pen to paper, so to speak, and for that, I commend him.

It was, however, not what I was hoping for in a book. While some parts were definitely in
Susabelle Kelmer
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
What a fun book! It's a little dated now, but I enjoyed it anyway. It was written with the care and detail only a journalist could bring - facts, figures, statistics, and lots of great short interviews with all of his sources. Being a boomer, it's not my first go-round with Americana, and I was amused that there are people who think buying quality is a Brand New Thing. ...more
Christine Kenney
Sep 14, 2017 rated it liked it
This is what would happen if Whole Earth Catalog collaborated with Robb Report. Interesting to see someone try to draw an overarching theme across so many subcultures; I don't think these interests is as nationalistic as the title implies. ...more
Jan 31, 2022 rated it really liked it
Interesting and entertaining.
Janet Brown
May 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Nothing could be more timely than The United States of Americana although it was published ten years ago. As we enter this new decade accompanied by a pandemic and an almost worldwide shutdown--have you tried to buy a thermometer lately?--nothing resonates more than how to Do It Yourself.
In 2010 Kurt B. Reighley wrote about people who pursued handmade quality and made things on their own because of a backlash against cheap and sloppy products. Companies like Alden's Shoes, Scrappy's Bitters, and
Apr 22, 2011 rated it liked it
Meant to just skim this book but ended up sitting down with it several days in a row. Interesting and informative if you're just on a nodding basis with the idea of the American Roots movement, but probably old hat if you're an active participant. The fashions detailed are overwhelmingly masculine as some critics have said; a little more info on how women might dapper themselves up would be nice but isn't necessary. Finally, since this proposes to be a field guide I would have liked to see a bro ...more
Jul 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
United States of Americana is interesting in that it talks about lots of aspects of American history. There's(and I quote): philosophy and history, new old-fashioned eating, cocktails and spirits, grooming, fashion and apparel, leatherwork and accessories, music (don't be fooled by the short title; it's the longest chapter in the book), design and decor, crafts and the d.i.y. handmade movement, and the lively arts. Very interesting. The only fault I can find with this book is that the author see ...more
A great survey of the recent revival of American folk traditions. The chapter on music would be particularly informative for anyone wanting to explore the roots of American music. My only criticism would be that it would have been nice to see a chapter dedicated to women's fashion (it focuses mainly on the guys, probably due the author's gender) and a little more delving into the psychology as to why folk are returning to the practices/sounds etc. of yesteryear. Overall, the book is very enterta ...more
Aug 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Interesting book! Gives a good overview about the impetus behind DIY and Americana and an informative look at the particulars of various aspects of it (music, drinking, shoes, etc). A little short on criticism of it (i.e. this is mostly for white people with a lot of disposable income, or at least it's perceived that way; these kinds of businesses are worthwhile reactions against places like Walmart, but they also speed up gentrification of neighborhoods), but a good introduction to the situatio ...more
Katie Kramer
Oct 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book fully encompasses the movement that allows us all to do things for ourselves, learn a skill, and appreciate the simplicity of everything from food to fashion. Resources and examples are heavily based on the PNW experience, however, a nod is given to the DIY/old-is-new culture throughout the US.

Good read, well worth the time even if you consider yourself "front and center" in what is termed the American roots movement.
Katy Wight
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
Very good over all (if a bit preaching to the choir in my case) - a nice guide to the 'back to the roots' movement that has swept parts of the US in recent years. The chapter on the roots of american music is a particularly valuable primer. The vintage cocktail recipes in the drinks chapter will come in handy as well. My only complaint that the book as a whole was very Brooklyn-San Francisco-Portland-Seattle-centric. ...more
Dec 20, 2012 rated it it was ok
Fast easy read for those interesting in re-discovering the roots of low volume (relatively speaking) goods of all types. Interesting from historical and practical perspective. Book made me want to visit Brooklyn, next time in NYC. Aiuthor is from Seattle so there is an emphasis on Pacific Northwest.
Rachael  Telford
Jul 07, 2013 rated it liked it
I enjoyed so much about this book, I just wish it hadn't felt as though it was all so crammed together. I think the author had so much knowledge in each subject that it felt rushed to get it all in- especially in the music section. It was an engaging and interesting read, but I wish there had been more time for each subject. ...more
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it
An interesting read, but I feel like the author relies very heavily on a few sources, so that at some points it feels like he's pitching for a specific website or author rather than exploring what he claims is a growing movement. ...more
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I just could not get through this book. While there were some interesting facts, it was dominated with hipster drivel and quotes from people in bands that had nothing to do with the actual stuff he was writing about. Namedropping at its worst.
Oct 14, 2011 rated it liked it
some good stories but the book doesn't fully embrace the narrative potential in the subject matter and rather opts for more of an around-the-horn survey of the Americana trend. Works better as a resource for anyone interested in Americana purveyors than a lean-back read. ...more
Kim Forsythe
Sep 03, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: reference
A how-to book for hipsters who know nothing about American history. One of the things I can say in this book's favor is that the author reinforces the fact that a martini is made with gin. ...more
May 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, history, nonfiction
3.5/5: Some chapters are definitely better/more thoroughly-researched than others, but it paints a nice overall picture of some interesting movements in contemporary culture.
Jun 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is a fun little read about the rustic romantic revival going on in various parts of the country.
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting little survey of the "so old it's hip" trends of late. ...more
Nathan Huff
Oct 13, 2012 rated it really liked it

Made me want to try a handle bar mustache, but my wife vetoed it.
pickles. carhartts. mustaches. folk music. burlesque. the end.
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