Author Tom Zoellner Talks Patriotism, Politics, and The National Road

Author Tom Zoellner, whose latest work is titled The National Road.EXPAND
Author Tom Zoellner, whose latest work is titled The National Road.
Erin Dunkerly
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

“It’s kind of uncool to be patriotic these days,” according to Tom Zoellner, an author with Phoenix roots whose newest book explores the American landscape. “It’s putting yourself in league with conspiracy elements.”

That hasn’t stopped him from addressing patriotism, or exploring its myriad expressions in America’s present and past. With a new collection of essays titled The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America, Zoellner uses geographic landscapes as a lens for viewing the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of contemporary life.

He’ll discuss the book during a live Zoom event on Thursday, October 15. It’s being presented by Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix.

Zoellner (who, full disclosure, is an occasional contributor to Phoenix New Times) insists his latest title “isn’t a political book,” despite its treatment of topics at the heart of political discourse, including immigration, capitalism, and religion. “It’s not partisan.” Even so, The National Road reflects his own take on patriotism during divisive times. “We are all deeply patriotic,” Zoellner says. “But we all express it in different ways.”

His own patriotism takes the form of traveling the vast expanse of America, learning about its many historical and contemporary iterations through conversations with the people who populate the land, as well as diverse literary and cultural sources. “People are far more determined by geography than they realize.”

For Zoellner, there’s a common thread at the heart of American life: It’s the land. “It’s hard not to love the physicality of the world,” he explains. “We love the land and the idea of equality.” His essays lay bare significant inequities, calling forth complexities that defy “the red, white, and blue kind of patriotism.”

Trump gets a single mention in the book, which reflects a far wider lens than divisive ideologies and rhetoric. Still, it’s clear that Zoellner is mindful of Trump’s impact. “There are many things in our national discourse that are profoundly troubling and disgusting,” he says.

He’s hoping the book will leave readers with a sense of optimism. “There are reasons to feel pessimistic about the future and negative about the past, but we’re living on some of the most beautiful land on the planet, in a heterodox nation founded on an incredibly good idea.”

Changing Hands Bookstore presents a live Zoom author appearance with Tom Zoellner, author of The National Road: Dispatches from a Changing America, at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 15. Tickets are $5, or free with  advance purchase of the book from Changing Hands Bookstore.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.