A Journey Around Our America: A Memoir of Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U.S.

Louis G. Mendoza

With a discernment of the American character that recalls Alexis de Tocqueville, this riveting account of the author’s 8,500-mile bicycle journey around the United States offers a unique firsthand perspective on how Latino immigrants are changing the face of our country

A Journey Around Our America: A Memoir on Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U.S. BY LOUIS G. MENDOZA

from the book: I left with a lot of anxiety about the unknown and fear of personal limits I might face. I experienced enormous wells of solitude, but found an expanded sense of community. I was prepared to face hostility and met such kindness that I returned feeling an unexpected hope, pride, and a stronger sense of belonging. I will always carry some of that with me in honor of all those who made this trip what it was, who, like the great natural beauty, are there to be encountered around the next bend or over the next hill. I believe all this to be true. There is no doubt that I had the experience of a lifetime and learned much about Latinos in the U.S., and the country in general beyond my wildest expectations. We, all of us, on the entire political spectrum, are faced with resolving this issue. I want to believe that we will find a way to wrestle with our inner demons and call forth our better sense of self to do what is humane and right for this country’s well-being, and for humanity, by setting an example for the world to follow. Do we have it within us to do so?

A Journey Around Our America: A Memoir of Cycling, Immigration, and the Latinoization of the U.S.
Louis G. Mendoza. Univ. of Texas, $55 (234p) ISBN 978-0-292-74208-6

Deeply troubled by the gathering backlash against Latino immigration in recent years, Mendoza, a Mexican-American academic (Univ. of Minn.) and author
(Crossing into America), took his outrage on the road, crossing the continent over five months in 2007 in an attempt to gain insight into the experience of Latinos from shore to shore. Choosing a bike over a car was a way to get in shape during his sabbatical year, though cycling also proved a key to gaining trust among the people he needed to meet: the often shunned, invisible, disenfranchised immigrant workers who made the shops, factories, fields, mines, and dairies run every day. From Santa Cruz, Calif., he headed northward in July, toward Eugene, Ore., then due east, hitting his midway point of Minneapolis six weeks later. Then, from Chicago and Detroit he traveled to Boston and New York, then pressing down the coast to Florida and across to Houston, Tex., where his family lived. He offers reflections from his blog on the personal toll the arduous journey took, and records interviews with many of the locals he met and who offered him acts of kindness. The snapshots of these myriad lives are relevant and moving. (Oct.)

from Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-292-74208-6

from University of Texas Press:

Immigration and the growing Latino population of the United States have become such contentious issues that it can be hard to have a civil conversation about how Latinoization is changing the face of America. So in the summer of 2007, Louis Mendoza set out to do just that. Starting from Santa Cruz, California, he bicycled 8,500 miles around the entire perimeter of the country, talking to people in large cities and small towns about their experiences either as immi- grants or as residents who have welcomed—or not—Latino immigrants into their communities. He presented their enlightening, sometimes surprising, firsthand accounts in Conversations Across Our America: Talking About Immigration and the Latinoization of the United States.

Now, in A Journey Around Our America, Mendoza offers his own account of the visceral, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual dimensions of traveling the country in search of a deeper, broader under- standing of what it means to be Latino in the United States in the twenty-first century. With a blend of first- and second-person narratives, blog entries, poetry, and excerpts from conversations he had along the way, Mendoza presents his own aspirations for and critique of social relations, political ruminations, personal experiences, and emotional vulnerability alongside the stories of people from all walks of life, including students, activists, manual laborers, and intellectuals. His conversations and his experiences as a Latino on the road reveal the multilayered complexity of Latino life today as no academic study or newspaper report ever could.

Minneapolis, Minnesota
Mendoza is Associate Vice Provost in the Office for Equity and Diversity at the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities, where he is also Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Chicano Studies. He is coeditor of Crossing into America: The New Literature of Immigration and author of Historia: The Literary Making of Chicana and Chicano History.


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