I think you might enjoy reading The Revolution Where You Live: Stories from a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America, by Sarah van Geldar (a founder of Yes Magazine). She did something very similar, and this book is the culimination of that. In an attempt to stay positive (as someone who’s been across this country many times, myself, I feel you), she focused on some towns and people making real, positive change. It was a savior of a read for me, because yeah… gaping hole, for sure.

Compulsive storyteller. Ada Comstock Scholar at Smith College. http://www.sanguinemeander.com

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