Smuggler Nation by Peter Andreas – Mini Book Review

Smuggler Nation by Peter Andreas
Published by Oxford University Press

From the publisher:

America is a smuggler nation. Our long history of illicit imports has ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Contraband capitalism, it turns out, has been an integral part of American capitalism.

Providing a sweeping narrative history from colonial times to the present, Smuggler Nation is the first book to retell the story of America–and of its engagement with its neighbors and the rest of the world–as a series of highly contentious battles over clandestine commerce.

If you’re a fan of American history, Peter Andreas provides a fascinating new way to look at it with his Smuggler Nation. Andreas makes a very convincing argument that America’s history is, by definition, a history of smuggling, from to intellectual property, to drugs and other material goods, to people. How long would the Confederacy have lasted without the blockade runners, for example?

In addition to being informative and convincing, Andreas is also an engaging writer. He has a good sense of flow and reader attention span, balancing good, meaty information with the knowledge of when to change the subject at least a little to keep things interesting.

Smuggler Nation is not only a new way to look at our history, but also a new way to look at our present. Politicians and policy makers bemoaning our porous borders would do well to learn from the lessons of our smuggling past before proposing solutions that only rehash past failures. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Currency by Zoe Zolbrod – Book Review

Currency by Zoe Zolbrod
Published by Other Voices Books

Although he comes from a less than well-off rural Thai family, Piv is a survivor. Things may not have gone the way he had hoped in his life, but he gets by in Bangkok, does fairly well even. Often he has affairs with the farang (foreigner) women who provide him with places to stay, food, and occasionally even money. His latest farang, however, barely has these things herself. Robin has been backpacking for so long that she has not only wiped out her savings, but also maxed out her credit cards. The US Embassy could help her out, but only by sending her home, and Robin is not yet ready to leave Thailand or Piv. For help, Piv turns to the Kenyan business man he has become acquainted with from his hotel bar. Abu in turns offers both Piv and Robin courier jobs but, once Robin finds out what she is couriering, she has to reevaluate what she wants, and ask herself if those things are worth the price she is paying for them.

Although it starts out a bit slow, “Currency” is an intensely engaging novel. As someone who backpacked around Southeast Asia herself, Zolbrod paints what appears to be an incredibly realistic portrait of Thailand and many of the systemic problems therein, without ever making it seem as if she was denigrating Thailand for some of its societal ills. Perhaps the best part about “Currency,” however, was Robin’s journey. Zolbrod did a wonderful job getting inside Robin’s head and showing the reader everything needed to understand her motivations. Although I didn’t necessarily like Robin or approve of much she did, I felt that I understood her very well, which is part of what made “Currency” such an engaging read.

“Currency” is a debut novel both for author Zoe Zolbrod and for her publisher Other Voices Books. With “Currency,” both have proved themselves as people to watch.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

Zoe Zolbrod’s website

This review was done with a book received from the author.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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