cover image Exurbia Now: The Battleground of American Democracy

Exurbia Now: The Battleground of American Democracy

David Masciotra. Melville House, $28.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-685-89089-6

Exurbia is “the breeding and staging ground for the far-right insurgency, and, therefore, the battleground of American democracy,” claims journalist Masciotra (I Am Somebody) in this unsparing inquiry into America’s racialized geography. He argues that as the suburbs become more diverse, white conservatives are abandoning them for the exurban fringe, where far-right activists work to gain control of town councils, school boards, and police departments, forming ideological enclaves that percolate white discontent and paranoia. To make his case, Masciotra draws on his personal knowledge of communities on the far edges of Chicago in Illinois and northwest Indiana, along with reporting and sociological studies—including one showing that the most common factor among January 6 insurrectionists was that they lived in counties where the non-white population was growing. Most rewardingly, he delves deep into suburban political history, incorporating a wide array of narrative threads; these range from an interview with a former leader of America’s first neo-Nazi skinhead gang—which in the 1970s and ’80s roamed Chicago’s south suburbs, attacking Black and Latino people on the street—to an inquest into the thinly veiled political agenda behind suburbs’ usual absence of sidewalks. (As one urban planner explains, the idea is that “if we have sidewalks, we’re going to bring people who do not belong.”) It’s both a darkly limned history of Chicagoland and a convincing portrait of a new era of white flight. (Apr.)