A Personal Journey: On “Exile: Rejecting America and Finding the World”

ONE WAY TO LOSE a popularity contest in the United States is to mention in polite company — who may be chatting about, say, the impeachment or the Mueller investigation — the numerous ways the United States has meddled in the affairs of other countries throughout many years.

Rigging elections might be the most benign offense on a list that includes engineering military coups, forcing economic policies beneficial to corporations, or blasting another country to bits. And if you mention any of these truths, and the wrong person is in the crowd, there is a chance that the rebuttal will be the following old insult: if you don’t like the country, why don’t you just leave?

Belén Fernández did just that. And it was no whim. As she explains in her book Exile: Rejecting America and Finding the World, she left because the United States is, as she writes, a “large-scale lab experiment on how to best crush the human soul.”

The book carries the momentum of that very sentence, as Fernández relates more than 15 years spent journeying through Lebanon, Honduras, Turkey, Italy, and other places. The result is one of the most poignant, searing, and, at times, deadpan critiques of the United States and its mass media that I have ever read.

Fernández begins by describing her upbringing in the United States, including debilitating panic attacks that persisted into her university years. She attributed the panic attacks to “the fear that no one would help me — hardly an irrational sentiment in a system predicated on individual isolation and general estrangement from humanity.” This led to her 2003 departure from the United States, for good, with no other plan but just to get out. She left and never came back.

The result is an extraordinary and unorthodox travelogue.

Read the full review here.

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