Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows is a Fellow at New America. She is the author of Dreaming in Chinese and co-author with James Fallows of Our Towns: A 100,000-Mile Journey into the Heart of America.
  • Deborah Fallows

    A Post-Election Field Report From America's Refugees and Immigrants

    Words and stories from the towns where the newest Americans live

  • Courtesy of Birmingham Public Library Archives

    The Treasures of Birmingham

    For almost a century, the local library has guarded its city's history.

  • A Renewable Energy Revolution in Small-Town America

    Across the country, moves towards sustainability are happening at the grassroots.

  • Deborah Fallows

    What It Takes to Settle Refugees

    The people of Erie, Pennsylvania, have welcomed immigrants and refugees, and believe that their town is better off for having done so.

  • Are America's Small Towns Really Struggling?

    A tour of three cities that are finding unique ways to mitigate the country's jobs crisis

  • The Truth About American Towns That Welcome Refugees

    A short film exploring the cultural and economic benefits of high immigrant populations

  • Deborah Fallows

    Life in the Air

    Getting from here to there by small plane

  • Wikimedia

    Old City, Old Buildings, New Life

    An art museum with a long history reinvents itself with passion and an entrepreneurial spirit.

  • Beyond Books: Libraries Reach Out to the Public

    A collaboration of libraries and communities around the country Outside The Lines

    During our American Futures tour around the country over the past three years, Jim and I have seen libraries, one after another, stretching to engage the people in their communities. They sometimes work in surprising and quite un-library-like ways, at least by traditional measures.

    For example, libraries become offices for entrepreneurs and start-ups. They are safe places for children, and sometimes offer supervised homework help and even meals.  Librarians learn how to help patrons with health issues and personal financial challenges.

    Libraries are hubs of technology, from helping library users print documents to sponsoring Maker Spaces. And they are centers for the community, providing space for citizenship classes or a corner for seed-lending programs for avid gardeners.

    This week, more than 250 libraries and organizations around the country, and actually the world, are busy broadcasting the message of the new relevance of libraries in people’s communities and lives.

    Outside the Lines is a week-long celebration of creative library events and experiences to introduce, or re-introduce libraries to their communities. The idea grew from a collaboration between passionate Colorado library directors and marketers, including the Colorado State Library and Anythink Libraries, a public library system in Adams County, Colorado, Erica Grossman of Anythink described to me.

  • Boston Public Library Tichnor Brothers collection

    The Ebbs and Flows of Coastal Maine

    Quoddy Village was built ahead of its time.

  • Allison Osberg / Courtesy of Tides Institute and ...

    Little Town, Big Art

    “The arts” might seem a frill or nicety. In Eastport, Maine, they’ve been at the center of economic and civic plans and have helped the little city “punch above its weight.”

  • Courtesy of Erie County Public Library

    A Waterfront Library

    In Erie, Pennsylvania, a public institution is building on its nautical past to open a world of opportunity for local residents.

  • Taylor Aikins

    'America Is a Dream Country'

    What does it mean to spend years as a Syrian refugee and then land in a brand new life in Erie, Pennsylvania?

  • David Gray / Reuters

    The Education of Ryan Lochte

    What he could learn from America’s public pools

  • Deborah Fallows

    A Carnegie Legacy in Dodge City

    Synergy of arts and civic life in a Kansas town

  • James Fallows / The Atlantic

    Dodge City Postcard

    Notes from the ground, from the sky, and from the people of Dodge City, Kansas

  • Orlin Wagner / AP

    Educating Migrant Children in Dodge City

    “We’re a port of entry 1,000 miles from the border.”

  • Red Demon Football on YouTube

    Dodge City's New Frontier

    A high school in the famed Kansas town is embracing its rapidly changing demographics.

  • Deborah Fallows

    New Pioneers in Southwest Kansas

    Mexican immigrants on the Great Plains try to build new lives, with hope and help.

  • View From the Right Seat

    About to land one week ago, on Runway 14 in Dodge City, Kansas Deborah Fallows

    During our more than 50,000 miles of flight for our American Futures project, I’ve sat in the “right seat” of our Cirrus SR22. That’s the official term for my spot in the plane, and the right seat like the left carries all the fixtures for a full-fledged pilot:  I am equipped with the steering, radio call button, and visual access to all the monitors to fly. I’m not a pilot (a story for another day), but I love being in the right seat.

    By now, I am familiar with all the rhythms and quirks of the plane. I know and see the steps to acceleration and take-off.  I know how the plane engine sounds as we press for speed and altitude. I can anticipate the degree of bumpiness to expect when we fly into big puffy clouds or little thin ones. I recognize the feel of the steep banking to enter the pattern to land and see the shifting colors of the lights on the field signaling the safe altitude for touchdown.

    It is very comforting to know every feel and sound so well, and it is also useful. I could identify the whistling sound when we failed to slam the cockpit door hard enough; it’s not really dangerous to fly with the door just shy of closed, because it’s not going to fly open with all that wind racing across it. I noticed an unusual airy sound when a small protective access plate under one wing had bent and eventually blew off. I know not to be alarmed when we catch sudden drafts, bouncing the plane as we fly over very hot deserts or high hills.

    Me looking at Jim looking at monitors                                                        (Deborah Fallows/The Atlantic)

    I know enough about the screen monitors to study the interesting details, like the altitude, the outside air temperature, the speed, wind direction and velocity, our heading, and miles to destination. I’m always rooting for tailwinds and disappointed when we encounter headwinds going both directions of a trip. That seems to happen more frequently than odds would dictate. But it is thrilling to catch a really strong tailwind, watch the speed increase, and hope for a personal-best record. We normally aim for about 170 knots, about 200 mph, but we have gotten as high as about 220 knots flying east over Iowa, carried by a really strong tailwind. It felt almost like hydroplaning.

    We have our choice of what to listen to through our headsets: the air traffic controllers (ATC) are obligatory when they’re directing us on an instrument flight plan (IFR); they are optional company for us when we’re flying in visual flight conditions (VFR). In busier airspace, even if we don’t need the ATC,  we’ll opt for “flight following,” which means that they  keep an eye on us and occasionally speak with us if other planes come near. I sometimes do the ATC calls.

    We can also listen to Sirius/XM radio. Listening to farm reports over Kansas or truckers’ radio as we fly over I-80 add to the sense of place we feel flying over the land that drowns out the colorless CNN or Fox news. As Jim has described, the controllers are unfailingly unflappable. Mostly, the exchanges are routine and follow strict, scripted language designed for clarity and efficiency. You hear some variations: accents shift to a slow southern drawl as we fly down the east coast. On holidays, some controllers offer greetings. You catch hints of their exasperation when lazy pilots don’t listen well or fail to respond to frequent calls to their tail number.  On the other hand, you hear patience behind controllers’ calls when they’re dealing with student pilots.

    Looking at weather from the right seat                                                        (Deborah Fallows/The Atlantic)

    A few times, our exchanges with ATC have been memorable. Once we were caught over upstate New York in unexpected severe weather. The ATC took us as far as he could before handing us over to the next one. While navigating us around storms, he had asked for the number of “souls on board,” which I learned afterwards was the vernacular for “people on board,” but hearing the phrase for the first time was completely unnerving for me.  Just before hand-off, he wished us good luck. That was kind, but also scary to me. Once we had a failed spark plug, and two separate times a failed alternator while in flight. For the latter, which is serious, the ATC inquired if we were declaring an emergency, which would signal a different set of actions, essentially giving us precedence over all the other planes in the area. (We weren’t.)

    ***