The Not-Quite States of America, By Doug Mack, Norton, 2017
No one who lives or has ever lived in a U.S. territory is going to quibble with author’s premise, stated early in the book:
“[F]or the average resident of the states, the territories are all but forgotten. They’re extant but inconsequential vestiges from another era whose ongoing existence is a cultural curiosity, like Tab soda or professional mini golf. They flicker into our consciousness here and there—an offbeat news story, a friend’s tropical island vacation photos, a passing reference in the fine print of a governmental form—and for a moment we think, Oh right… we have territories. Then, as quickly, they disappear from our minds once more.”
As revealed in this survey by the Minneapolis-based Mack, the U.S. territories and their subsequent fade from the American mind began with what is hard to describe as anything but imperial ambitions in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though Americans have been very reluctant to describe the territory they acquired as colonies. Coaling stations to serve a steam powered navy, were part of this as well as the desire to tap resources on remote oceanic islands—guano mines for fertilizer come to mind. Events during subsequent world wars and after also contributed to the current territorial lineup. It’s hard to recall for many who have spent little time learning American history that this expansion was once very politically popular.
Mack told Pacific Island Times in an interview via Skype that there are few contemporary accounts of the U.S. territories, which he said persuaded first his agent and then his publisher that the book was needed.