If the melodic refrains of Neil Diamond's “America” stays in my head any longer I must remember to “thank” Andisheh Nouraee, the next time I see him. Nouraee, a former columnist for Creative Loafing kicked off the local tour of his book, Americapedia: Taking the Dumb Out of Freedom, with a medley of songs about America. In front of a full house at Decatur's Eddie's Attic, Nouraee boldly sang his personal Ode to America, which included bits of “El Paso,” “California Girls,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” the theme from the Broadway show “Oklahoma,” “Doraville,” “Jackson,” and the “America” from “West Side Story” to name but a few). The unaccompanied singing was richly apropos considering it was A Cappella Books who partnered with Eddie's Attic to host this book launch (some of the proceeds of the book sales going to the Decatur Education Foundation.)
Americapedia is actually the work of three authors: Jodi Lynn Anderson, Daniel Ehrenhaft, and Nouraee. The book is kind of a humorous junior high level civics textbook, which not only has a satirical edginess that appeals to teens, but to some adults as well. The crowd ranged from junior high students to people who say they remember the political upheaval of the sixties (but have forgotten the adage, “If you remember the sixties, you probably were not there.”). Nouraee believes that history coupled with humor can remove the confusion of how government works or doesn't work. Once that barrier is removed, says Nouraee people will be more likely to get involved. “The heart of the book is activism,” says Nouraee and part of the book (and its website) are dedicated to providing links and information to a multitude of organizations where a reader can connect to like-minded individuals.
The book is divided into seven chapters, which include topics such as economics, American dynasties (e.g., the Kennedy and the Bush families) foreign affairs, and a chapter devoted to hot topics such as religion, gay marriage and global warming. The book is a breezy read with lots of sidebars (“more sidebars than bars,” quipped Nouree) and is printed with colorful photographs and illustrations. One impressive aspect of the book is that the styles of the three writers have been melded into one consistent voice. Nouree explained (he and I chatted briefly at the bar before showtime) that even though the writers were based in different cities, (Anderson in D.C.; Ehrenhaft in New York; Nouree in Atlanta) that they edited each others' contributions, which added to the seamless quality of the book.
For those who missed Nouraee's live August 6th performance (music, part reading, and reminiscing with his Creative Loafing readers) check him out at the upcoming Decatur Book Festival on Labor Day weekend. Nouraee appears at the Decatur Library at noon on Sunday, but he also goes head-to-head in a prose death match with other writers called the Write Club on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Decatur High School. The Write Club features teams of different writers competing to produce the most compelling prose in the shortest time, which promises to showcase Nouraee's quick and high spirited wit. Of course, if he gets stumped he could start singing, so heads up. If you're not protected, you could be stuck with one of those Neil Diamond ear-worms for weeks.