Is America as divided as it seems? Oxford University graduate student Ryan Bernsten takes a 23,000-mile journey through all 50 states of his home country to answer that question. 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy is a work of travel nonfiction in the style of Alexis de Tocqueville that takes readers on a long and winding journey through all 50 states to explore the complexities of today’s America. Leading with the desire to listen and overcome preconceived notions, Bernsten ultimately offers a hopeful vision for the future of America as he embarks on a search for meaning and reflects on what it means to be American. The companion podcast “50 States of Mind,” featured in Condé Nast Traveler, showcases live interviews from the journey and is available on all podcast platforms. The podcast has been featured on the Two Broads Talking Politics, Sanity, Chicago Indivisible, Northwestern Intersections, and Travel For a Loop podcasts and in Condé Nast Traveler.
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“If you are sadly convinced that our country is hopelessly divided along political and cultural lines, then I strongly urge you to read the book that is guaranteed to give you hope. Ryan Bernsten takes us on a journey to listen to the voices of Americans you are unlikely to have met. For his Graduate Thesis from Oxford University, Ryan chose to set off on a journey to fifty states and have real conversations about life and politics with real people. He shares these in his surprising book, ‘50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy’. While talking to folks in big, medium, and tiny towns, he quickly dumped all preconceptions and stereotypes. Ryan says he is ‘no Mr. Rogers’, but he has been in enough neighborhoods to see ‘the goodness of people.’ He thinks it would be wise to broaden your travel choices. Get some hints from his book.” - Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky
"In 50 States of Mind: A Journey to Rediscover American Democracy, Ryan Bernsten gives us a deeper, more nuanced, and ultimately hopeful portrait of our shared American life. Throughout these pages and across the miles, Ryan’s humble approach--rooted in authentic curiosity about his fellow Americans' lived experiences--reveals to the reader that we are less divided than our politics suggest. Reconnecting to each other at the community level based on what we share in common is a necessary way out of the political morass in which we find ourselves. With compelling vignettes and lasting insights, this book is a timely reminder that politics is always first and foremost about people." - Nick Troiano, Executive Director, Unite America