America For Beginners

Bringing American culture closer to new immigrants

Complexity of Diversity. American Portraits by Michael Clinton. [Book Review]

We often talk about the changing face of America caused by the demographic shift. What we don’t notice is that it has already changed. Or, to be more factually correct, there’s never been a one face. The country was shaped and built with different ethnicities and races, and I truly believe that all arguments otherwise reflect the inability of “white ego” to let go of its fantasies. That said, the book that I’m talking about here is a great illustration of history. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome American Portraits by Michael Clinton.

American Portraits Cover“Together, the 93 Americans in these portraits trace their ancestry to 100 different countries. Through this visual journey, we meet Americans like Renee Dominique, descended from Afghanis, Irish, and Trinidadians; Russ Theriot, who is Canadian, French, Norwegian, and Cajun, and Andrea Luhtanen with a mixed Slovenian and Finnish background. Each portrait reminds us that there can be no singular image of what an American looks like. The Americans that Clinton photographed have varying skin tones, hair colors, heights and shapes.”

Despite the common perception, American society is so much more of a patchwork than a melting pot. Our cultural identities do not just assimilate to the local flavor, but rather find points of connection with it.

I like

… that the pictures are just portraits on a white background without any ethnic elements. Usually we do not wear our cultural heritage on our sleeves, and there’s, indeed, no reason to make people look intentionally exotic. The reason why Michael Clinton chose these particular people for his visual journey was because they had rich and complex cultural roots. That’s the beauty of this book: to show the complexity of diversity.

I wish
… there were more information about these people’s life stories. Even a short quote from them would make the picture more complete for me. However, as Clinton explains, ” The answer is never the story, always the people”.

 *** The copy of the book was received from the publisher. Rules here

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One comment on “Complexity of Diversity. American Portraits by Michael Clinton. [Book Review]

  1. George Simons
    December 22, 2012

    The critical comment for me: “Our cultural identities do not just assimilate to the local flavor, but rather find points of connection with it.” Similar origins may result in quite different forms of assimilation depending on where the newcomers are assimilated in the USA. For a great study of this read: Woodard, Colin, American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America. For a preview, I have reviewed it at: http://www.diversophy.com/gsi/reviews/American%20nations.pdf

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