New Jersey is 350…you gotta problem with that? Morristown author brings it on, March 30

I’m from New Jersey, I don’t expect too much/

If the world ended today I would adjust

John Gorka, I’m From New Jersey

New Jersey has an image problem. Or does it?

Michael Aaron Rockland signs a copy of his memoir. Marie Pfeifer photo

Michael Aaron Rockland signs a copy of his memoir. Marie Pfeifer photo

Michael Aaron Rockland– Morristown resident, Rutgers professor, and author of 12 books including Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike–will challenge a few misconceptions and debunk some myths on Sunday, March 30, 2014, at the Morristown & Township Library.

The talk starts at 2 pm, it’s free and refreshments will be served.

So if you don’t want trouble from any Sopranos, be there. On time.

Here is more, from the library:

Garden State, Sopranos State, Bill of Rights State?  New Jersey, its History and Image, at 350 Years (1664-2014)

Featuring Professor Michael Rockland, Rutgers University

MORRISTOWN, NJ—Why does New Jersey have such an image problem?  It’s not New York, It’s not Philadelphia,… it is uniquely its own.  Morristown resident and Rutgers University Professor Michael Rockland will explore the history of our state, now in its 350thyear, as well the image of the state over time in this special Sunday afternoon lecture on March 30, 2014 beginning at 2:00 p.m.  Refreshments will be served.  This program is sponsored by the Friends of the Morristown & Morris Township Library.

 New Jersey, almost unique among American states has had a conflicted image right from the start, 350 years ago. The British crown gave it away twice–which almost led to war–and things were resolved by creating two colonies, East and West Jersey.  Also from the start, and in some ways still today, New Jersey was dominated by New York, so that it was virtually a colony of a colony. Given the constant putdowns emanating from across the river on Saturday Night Live and many Woody Allen movies (In Sleeper Woody awakes in some distant future and announces his discovery that “There is intelligent life in the universe, except in certain parts of New Jersey”), New Jersey’s desire for respect, especially from New York but also from Philadelphia, the two great cities that bracket the state, is understandable.

Is New Jersey the Garden State? It certainly was that in its beginnings but, although there is still thriving agriculture in parts of the state, New Jersey became an industrial powerhouse beginning in the late 19th Century and “Garden State” in some ways became a misnomer.  Indeed, it is ironic that the words “Garden State” appear on the 8.5 million vehicles registered in the state, which perhaps, as much any other factor, discredit the “Garden State” name. Truckers entering New Jersey from other states have traditionally radioed, “I’m entering the Garbage State.”

At the same time, New Jersey is incredibly varied and interesting. The fifth smallest state (geographically), New Jersey has 120 miles of beaches, it has mountains and depending on the year, is the wealthiest American state. It is also the most densely populated of the fifty states; incredibly, more densely populated than India.  It has also been a rather amazing cultural engine.  Perhaps the greatest contemporary female and male actors, Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, are both New Jerseyans.  Bruce Springsteen made the cover of both Time and Newsweek magazines the same week, and The Sopranos, like Bruce, became a worldwide phenomenon.  New Jersey also has something peculiar to it: attitude, expressed best in those tee-shirts that read “New Jersey: Only the Strong Survive.”


Michael Aaron Rockland is a professor of American Studies at Rutgers University, where he teaches the course ‘Jerseyana’.  He is the author of twelve books, three of which have received special recognition. His first book, Sarmiento’s Travels in the United States in 1847(Princeton University Press), was chosen by The Washington Post’s Book World as one of the “Fifty Best Books of the Year.” His novel,A Bliss Case (Coffee House Press) was a New York Times “Notable Book of the Year.” A book he co-wrote, Looking for America on the New Jersey Turnpike (Rutgers University Press), was chosen by the New Jersey State Library as one of the “Ten Best Books Ever Written on New Jersey or by a New Jerseyan.” His latest books are Stones, a novel (Hansen Publishing Group) and The George Washington Bridge: Poetry in Steel (Rutgers University Press). Rockland has won five major teaching/lecturing awards, including the National Teaching Award in American Studies and just this year, the Richard Hughes Award.  He has lectured in some twenty-one countries around the world. A regular contributor to New Jersey Monthly magazine, he has also worked in television and film production, mostly for PBS, was for years the cultural commentator on New Jersey Nightly News and is regularly interviewed on National Public Radio.


  1. After visiting Michael Rockland at the library, he was here at Macculloch Hall Historical Museum 2 weeks ago and gave a great presentation! thank you Michael, please stop over to the Museum to meet author Cindy Martin. MHHM is celebrating the 350th anniversary of New Jersey with book signings by authors whose work explores aspects of the state’s history. On Sunday March 30th we welcome Ms. Martin who will be available to sign and sell books to museum visitors during touring hours 1pm – 4pm. Ms. Martin is the author of “Summit Historic Homes” which includes more than 200 vintage images of the magnificent homes of Summit, New Jersey. Our next presentations in conjunction with the NJ anniversary take place on the first and second Sundays in April, please visit our website for more details.

  2. Don Rossoff says:

    Michael is one of Morristown’s great treasures!

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