Leaving America (Book Review)
"Leaving America: The New Expatriate Generation", By John Wennersten, Praeger Press, c2008, #0313345066, 186 pages, $40.
Unlike "guides" and handbooks on getting out of America [i.e., the United States], this is essentially an academic work - a piece of history/sociology. Wennersten is a retired humanities professor who is now tied to the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, in D.C.. He is interested in movements of Americans, the who, what, why, where, when, etc. - and what similarities exist between past and present movements, current, etc.
The work is quite interesting in the sense that while "Americans" are often obsessed with who enters the country -legally or illegally- very little attention is paid to who leaves. As the author points out, there are no exit visas for U.S. citizens leaving the country - for a day, week, decade, forever. This fact alone means any serious author faces obvious obstacles in terms of data-gathering. The book is very well researched and documented, though the prose is straightforward. Since the work is also historical, there are many interesting sidebars (like the fact that passports originated with governments bent on making sure citizens could not leave, not as a means to assisting them in this journey, etc.).
Chapters include: Explaining expatriate motivation -- The expatriate archipelago -- Dissenters, tax fugitives, and utopians -- The expatriate countries : Canada, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand -- Black exiles and sojourners -- Women expatriates -- Go east, young man -- Gringo gulch : retired expatriates and sojourners in Latin America -- The return of the native.
While the work doesn't tell you how to start a new life on the other side of the world, in historical perspective it does a nice job investigating why other people have done so, and where they ended up, etc. While this account might not initially seem practical to anyone looking at "getting out", throughout the book there are tidbits of interest to most people considering an international move (per Central America, that Panama is currently the top country for U.S. civil service annuity check deposits, etc.). Given the publisher and academic take on the subject the book is not likely to show up on the wall of backpacker book exchanges in the Latin world, but it is an interesting read for those concerned with bigger issues.