OK, so it took me almost two weeks to finish my Week 5 book. It's finished and ready to be returned to the library. And I still have two days to cram in a book for Week 6.
By Greg Grandin
New York: Metropolitan Books, 2009
I found this title while looking through the list of award winners on Amazon. Rather than buy it, I found it through my local library.
Two things drew me to this book: 1) History connected to Henry Ford and Dearborn, Mich., and 2) the idea of depositing an ideal American society into the Amazon jungle.
What a fascinating read. It gives the history to the hows and whys Henry Ford sought to build a city along the Amazon and gives the details of how it started and ultimately failed. It was interesting to read how Ford changed his tune as his quest for growing rubber failed. The reason for being in the Amazon suddenly became a "civilizing mission," to transplant American society to the people of the Amazon.
The overall story is kind of sad. Henry Ford had big dreams but it seems he also suffered from tunnel vision. He wanted to simply recreate the operation that worked in Michigan. Except that it was an entirely different culture of people and ecosystem, and no adjustments or concessions were made for those. The whole project might have worked if Ford were more flexible and engaged more with the land, the ecosystem and the people. But he just sent teams down to set up shop and create a little American town in the Amazon jungle without planning for what might happen.
That said, if you have time, read it.
There is a solid book review from the NY Times here: "Dearborn-on-Amazon"
On finishing I started "googling" Fordlandia. Seeing this place in person is now on my bucket list and I wanted to see if there were any recent pictures, to see if any others travelers have since been to Fordlandia and sister city Belterra (Ford's second attempt and perhaps more successful venture). I found one guy who added it to his Amazon visit also after reading the book. His travel blog is here. He has a link to a Facebook page with a bunch of photos from his stop there, including some from the Ford water tower in Fordlandia. They are worth a look, especially if you've read the book: Fordlandia and Belterra on Facebook.