cover image Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Sebastian Junger. Hachette/Twelve, $22 (192p) ISBN 978-1-4555-6638-9

In this small but perfectly lucid book, National Magazine Award–winning journalist Junger (War) meditates on tribal sentiment, how it aids “loyalty and belonging and the eternal human quest for meaning,” and how the disappearance of this sentiment has had toxic consequences for modern societies. During the U.S.’s wars of settlement with its native population, many white men defected to, and many white captives were reluctant to return from, what Junger describes as a Stone Age lifestyle; he wonders why, and suspects that the material benefits of Western culture couldn’t compete with “the intensely communal nature of an Indian tribe,” which was “more or less run by consensus and broadly egalitarian.” In the present day, the close interdependence of a tribal lifestyle and its shared resources are things Westerners only experience in combat situations and disasters. For all the comfort of modern society, Junger thinks, its “profound alienation” has led in America to income inequality, behaviors destructive to the environment, high rates of suicide and mental illness (including PTSD), and rampage shootings. Ending with a look at the country’s divisive political rhetoric, Junger suggests that the U.S. could cure its ills if we could only focus on the collective good. Agent: Stuart Krichevsky, Stuart Krichevsky Literary. (May)