Review: Freak Nation

Review: Freak Nation

Freak Nation
by Kate Stevens
published by Adams Media
this edition: 2010
size: 568KB (258 pages)
categories: nonfiction; education & reference; humor & entertainment; trivia; social sciences – pop culture
lending: yes
simultaneous device licenses: six
real page numbers: yes
part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library: yes
text-to-speech: yes
suitability for text-to-speech: good
x-ray: no
Whispersync for Voice: no

“What all these designations of the word ‘freak’ have in common is that they refer to something that deviates from the norm, and while in America’s  classrooms we celebrate diversity, in America’s open spaces and private lives, we celebrate deviance. Deviance is a reminder to ourselves and to others that we are unique, our own person, and dedicated to not entirely fitting in. So we who are about to freak, salute you. Be yourself, know thyself, tune in, turn on, and freak out!”
–Kate Stevens
writing in Freak Nation

I know I’m not like everybody else…and neither is anyone. 😉

We are all unique in different ways, but it has always fascinated me when people want to be different together.

I see some forms of dress, for example, that seem like a uniform…or even a costume. That can be accompanied by slang, eating habits…it is the non-conformists conforming to each other.

Freak Nation, by Kate Stevens, brings us many of these sub-cultures in America. It’s broken down into sections, and each section has several entries:

  • Collectibles
  • Fashion
  • Art
  • Food and drink
  • Lifestyles
  • Music
  • Sports and games
  • Pastimes and careers
  • Politics
  • Sex
  • Society
  • Technology

Lifestyles, for example, has entries for

  • Bohemians
  • Nudists
  • Homeschoolers
  • Hoarders
  • Trustafarians
  • Urban Homesteaders
  • Survivalists
  • Houseboaters
  • Bilderbergers
  • Dumpster Divers

The entries all follow the same pattern. This is not a narrative sociological study. It’s a “field guide”, with humor. Each case has these elements:

  • Name
  • Also known as
  • Just don’t call them
  • Core belief
  • Who they are
  • How to recognize
  • To be found
  • Hero
  • Their idea of fun
  • Most distinctive trait
  • Biggest controversy
  • Biggest misconception about
  • What you may have in common
  • Buzzwords
  • Sign of fan
  • Sign of geek
  • Sign of superfreak

As you can see, some of these are there to help you consider them as…well, not weirder than you. In particular, that’s what the “What you may have in common” section does.

In general, these seem to be well-researched, and presented (usually) in a non-judgmental manner. Yes, there was one error that stood out strongly to me: the author referred to Area 51 as being in New Mexico, when it is actually in Nevada. That is enough to make me question other facts in the book, but my guess is that it is probably 90% or more accurate.

I do fit into some of these groups (vegetarians, Trekkies…don’t get me started on the Trekker terminology, and oddly, Trekkies are filed under “Fashion”), and I thought we were represented reasonably well.


In a very unusual position for me, I’m not going to recommend this book to you.

In a book which could have, should have, and for the most part did promote tolerance, there was one of the most offensive ethnic jokes I’ve ever read. It was particularly jolting because it was our of character for the book…and was completely unnecessary. The joke was about the French, and there were any number of other ways to make another joke there that wouldn’t have been so egregious. There was another joke about the Irish.

Just based on the French joke alone, I wouldn’t recommend that people read this book, which is so unfortunate as far as I’m concerned. It’s a digital book, now…if they want to go in and change that one joke (and the Irish one), it would change my feelings about it considerably.

I say it is a “digital book now”, because this is a book I considered buying in paper. I was happy to see it show up as an e-book, and part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, where I could read it for free.

Even though I find the book unacceptable, that doesn’t mean I won’t keep describing it for you, if you want to buy it (and I won’t hold that against you). 🙂 I’m quite a tolerant person (my Significant Other suggests that my family really goes overboard on that, and perhaps we tolerate behavior within ourselves that we shouldn’t), and that extends to you finding things acceptable that bother me.

The book was adapted well for being an e-book, with an active table of contents (meaning you can click on it to go to sections), and clickable links within each section.

It did have that weird thing that is done sometimes, when the cover and the back of the book are simply reproduced as images…as if the book (in this case, an apparently unbound version) was just stuck on a scanner (you can see the imperfect pages).

I liked that the  quotations  related to the sections often came from very different sources than the groups themselves: that was a nice, erudite touch.

Oh, and the book does use the “F word”. That doesn’t prevent me from recommending a book, but I do think some people like to know about it ahead of time.

Well, I think I’ve given you a clear sense of my feelings about the book. 🙂 Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

3 Responses to “Review: Freak Nation”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I’m just curious if any of your other subscribers experienced the same repeated downloads of your blog yesterday? It downloaded the first time with this article as the new article. Then, it downloaded as new two more times with this same article being the most recent. Did you revise it, or did the Kindle servers have a bad case of hiccups?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!

      I often do update posts, but I don’t think I updated that one at all. What type of device were you using where you saw the duplicate posts?

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    I was using my Kindle Keyboard. I usually turn the 3G on 3 or 4 times a day to download updates for the blogs to which I subscribe. Your blog downloaded 3 times with the “new” label, but it was only new the first time it downloaded. The other blogs that downloaded as new had at least one new article.

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