Genus Americanus

Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity

Title Details

Pages: 360

Illustrations: 46 b&w photos

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in



Pub Date: 10/25/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5800-0

List Price: $34.95


Pub Date: 03/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6705-7

List Price: $26.95


Pub Date: 10/25/2020

ISBN: 9-780-8203-5801-7

List Price: $34.95

Genus Americanus

Hitting the Road in Search of America’s Identity

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A seventy-year-old Northwestern journalism professor, Loren Ghiglione, and two twenty-something Northwestern journalism students, Alyssa Karas and Dan Tham, climbed into a minivan and embarked on a three-month, twenty-eight state, 14,063-mile road trip in search of America’s identity. After interviewing 150 Americans about contemporary identity issues, they wrote this book, which is part oral history, part shoe-leather reporting, part search for America’s future, part memoir, and part travel journal.

On their journey they retraced Mark Twain’s travels across America—from Hannibal, Missouri, to Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New Orleans, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Seattle. They hoped Twain’s insights into the late nineteenth-century soul of America would help them understand the America of today and the ways that our cultural fabric has shifted.

Their interviews focused on issues of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and immigration status. The timely trip occurred as the United States was poised to replace president Barack Obama, an icon of multiculturalism and inclusion, with Donald Trump, whose white-identity agenda promoted exclusion and division. What they learned along the way paints an engaging portrait of the country during this crucial moment of ideological and political upheaval.

Loren Ghiglione’s passion for journalism and education informs every page of Genus Americanus, as he and his two students crisscross the country, giving voice to our collective psyche on matters of race, class, and other critical issues.

—Norman Pearlstine, executive editor, Los Angeles Times

In a cross-country road trip, featuring interviews with homegrown and immigrant Americans alike, these writers have taken a sampling of the nation’s pulse and revealed an unsettling truth: That while Americans are engaged in varied quests to confront racial, gender, and national identity issues, some are fairly enlightened while too many remain as confused and contradictory as ever in their expressed attitudes and beliefs. For insights about the elusive nature of American identity in the age of Trump, you should read Genus Americanus. It is a fascinating read, one that reminds us of just how much work remains to be done as we explore what it means to be American in the twenty-first century.

—Nathan McCall, author of Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America

In Genus Americanus, author Loren Ghiglione, traveling with his team in a Dodge Grand Caravan, retraces Mark Twain's steps across the nation ina search for American identity. He creates a narrative that makes you think harder and deeper about America: who we are as a people and who we aspire to be. This book couldn't be more timely.

—Gary M. Pomerantz, author of Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn

Loren Ghiglione takes a journey inspired by writer Mark Twain and gives us an authentic reflection of America through the people he meets. It’s rare to read a book about the American experience that gives Indigenous people an equal voice, but Ghiglione does so in true journalistic form and through descriptive storytelling. From the first pages of Genus Americanus, I felt like a passenger on a road trip through places that resonate with me as a person of color, whose community is often overlooked by mainstream America.

—Karen Lincoln Michel, member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and president of Indian Country Today


Excellence in Book Writing Award, Association of LGBTQ Journalists


Carey McWilliams Award, American Political Science Association

About the Author/Editor

Loren Ghiglione (Author)
LOREN GHIGLIONE is a veteran of a half century in journalism and journalism education and professor emeritus of journalism at Northwestern University. He owned and edited the Southbridge Evening News and ran its parent company, Worcester County Newspapers, for twenty-six years. He also served as a four-time Pulitzer Prize juror, guest curator of a 1990 Library of Congress exhibit and president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The author or editor of nine books, he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Alyssa Karas (Author)
ALYSSA KARAS is the global director of audience development at Vanity Fair.

Dan Tham (Author)
DAN THAM has served as a producer at CNN International. He is currently working on his first feature-length documentary.