A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America
Writer Deborah Fallows has turned her careful observations and beautiful prose to the small towns and industries that shape the United States. In her New York Times bestseller Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey Into the Heart of America, Fallows documents a five-year journey across the country, profiling the grassroots re-invention rarely covered in the mainstream media.
Our Towns is already a national bestseller and getting rave reviews: “an eye-opening, keenly optimistic reminder of the strength of America’s vital center,” says Publishers Weekly. “An illuminating trip through parts of the country generally missed by the media spotlight … writing with lively curiosity and open minds, the couple have created a well-reported, optimistic portrait of America’s future.” (Kirkus Reviews). The America that Deb and James Fallows spent five years reporting on is one on the verge of reinvention, and the keynotes they share are uplifting, fascinating portraits of the country’s strong backbone.
Fallows sharpened her reporting stills while writing Dreaming in Chinese, a book O Magazine called “captivating.” Her approach to studying China allowed her to understand many of the idiosyncrasies that confound the West when interacting with the Chinese. As the New York Times Sunday Book Review says, “Fallows presents the common Chinese viewpoint,” adding that she “sticks to her own experiences and observations, which make her book all the more valuable.”
“Our Towns will become a classic...the landscape unfurls beneath us; the language of different regions echoes in our ears. Most important, this book is a tonic for what ails us as a nation, a captivating story of energy and renewal across the land.”— Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & CEO, New America
A Harvard graduate with a PhD in Linguistics, Fallows is also the author of A Mother’s Work, which deals with child-rearing in the working-mom age. She most recently worked in research and polling for the Pew Internet Project. Fallows’s writing on women, education, work, and travel has appeared in, among others, The Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, and Newsweek.
Today’s dominant political refrain is that America is in a state of decline. But to author and linguist Deborah Fallows nothing could be further from the truth. Over the course of a five-year journey across the country, she (along with her husband, journalist James Fallows) discovered many surprising points of reinvention, in every region of the country—and enough to refresh the bleak national conversation to reflect a positive truth.
In this keynote, Fallows reports on the wide range of civic projects underway that are rebuilding America—a cross-section of generations, races, and political affiliations working far from the usual metropolitan hubs. You’ll hear how local heroes, community-minded action, and big dreams are signaling an end to the second gilded age. You’ll learn how real private-public partnerships, resuscitated downtowns, flourishing arts scenes, and schools—research universities, community colleges, and experimental classes—are renewing the tattered social fabric. And you’ll hear how these small, innovative, open places are producing an “archipelago of startups and reinventions.” This is the quiet revival the media can’t hear—the sound of America, in every corner, coming together again.
Using her experience as a trained linguist and a new student of Chinese, Deborah Fallows shows how simple words, phrases, or bits of the grammar of the Chinese language can become windows to understanding much of the Chinese culture—their sense of romance, humor, protocol, personal relationships, and interest in foreigners, to name a few. Why, for example, does abrupt language in Chinese actually signal a closeness between friends, rather than impolite behavior? Or why do the Chinese have such trouble saying "I love you" to the ones they love the most? With fluid grace and on-the-ground experience, Fallows provides a necessary human perspective on an emerging superpower that many in the West still struggle to comprehend.
American universities welcome international students for their diversity, perspective, and experience. Today, with growing numbers and nationalities of foreign students, campus dynamics are rapidly shifting. The new, young melting pot brings both advantages and challenges. What does it mean, for example, that there are suddenly 100,000 Chinese students, who have grown up with a largely pop-culture introduction to America and who are met by a western student body that is mostly unfamiliar with them and their country? How can the university community—faculty, staff and students of all sorts—get behind the change to understand the growing pains and pleasures? How can they help steer change in the best, positive directions toward a story of academic, social, and personal success? Fallows uses her first-hand experiences of living around the world to help scrutinize our own impressions of each other, and to move toward a more inclusive, generous context for living and working with one another.