American dreams

Stranger in a Strange Land: encounters in the disunited States
Gary Younge New Press, 301pp, £10.99 ISBN 1595580689

The US can be a hard place to understand. How can a nation founded on the promise of freedom and justice for all be so riven by conflict and inequality?

This collection of articles by Gary Younge is an excellent guide. Black, opinionated and not afraid to crack a joke or two, Younge has worked as the Guardian's New York correspondent since shortly after 9/11. As he travels across America, he uses his outsider status to depict a nation where Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals are locked in a struggle to claim the American dream.

The war on terror, race, politics and culture are covered with insight and a deliciously subversive wit. When challenged on his anti-war views with the cliché "If it wasn't for us you would be speaking German by now", Younge responds: "No, if it wasn't for you, I would probably be speaking Yoruba."

Younge's criticism of the disastrous intervention in Iraq is accompanied by a reminder that the path to war was smoothed by Britain's compliance. In his eyes, there is as little room for Euston Manifesto-style apologists as there is for the hysterical anti-Americanism of some of their opponents.