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One Continent, Three Siblings
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Anthony DePalma
Here:  A Biography of the New American Continent (NY: Public Affairs (Perseus Books Group), 2001.  375p.)

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DePalma evaluates the common historical experiences of the cultural and political entities that make up the North American Continent.  He likewise analyzes the similarities and differences between the three large geo-political entities of Canada, Mexico and the United States.

Multi-Level Relationships
DePalma skillfully considers the dynamics involved in the question of the geographical implications of the term "North American" versus the cultural and political ones.  He surveys the history of their societies and their politics, as well as the religious history of each entity and their complex interplay and multi-level relationships through history and currently.

DePalma speaks out of an Italian-American background as an American journalist with an academic style.  He has lived in Mexico with his Cuban-American wife.  They also lived in Canada, where DePalma served as the Director of the New York Times' Canadian bureau.  DePalma himself traveled to far reaches and isolated locales in the great Canadian territories to learn about local culture, ethnicity, political views and economic patterns.

Common Origins
His astute observation and facile analytical ability have enabled him to present here an understandable three-dimensional portrait.  We are treated to a rich, broad tapestry of communities in the three geographical North American giants.

With the sweeping changes pressed upon us in recent decades, the three countries often thought of as divided by continent-wide borders are now seen as three descendants of an early mix of invaders and indigenous.  They have each developed with different approaches to the somewhat common problems of their troubled heritage.

I especially appreciated DePalma's ability to weave a tight multi-layered view between the events and trends of the past with the confusing rapid-fire of change in our recent era.  His presentation of the history of NAFTA is helpful, his analysis providing insights into the problems and the benefits of this complex agreement between the three great North American neighbors.

Different Identities
In regard to that designation as North Americans, DePalma hands us an updated portrait of the struggle for identity involved in this friendly yet antagonistic relationships across the borders north and south of the United States. As DePalma spins out the personal stories of the political and economic movers in the history of Mexico, Canada and the US, this sounds at times like a novel of international intrigue.

There is life and fire in the story, readable as a political or economic analysis or simply as a fascinating human drama.  This is a fascinating cultural and economic analysis.  Any reader will learn a great deal of fact as well as perspective from a new comparative point of view, which is both analytical and sympathetic.

DePalma writes between the expected lines of standard academic disciplines, with the authoritative flavour of personal relationships and astute academic investigation and analysis.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
[review] Anasazi - Saving an Ancient Civilization
[reviews] Enlightment in and out of the American Churches
[review] John Adams:  Meeting a Founding Father
[review] Naivité and Intellectual Poverty in Modern America:  The Ethical Challenges
[review] The Old New World - The Old Kingdoms and Peoples of the Americas
[review] Rationalism, Natural Religion and Tolerance
[review] Religion and the State

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Written 19 March 2010
Reviewed on Amazon 27 April 2010
Review posted on OJTR 1 May 2010
Last edited 15 November 2011

Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2010 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Please give credit and link back.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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